Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christ Mass to all!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Monday, December 01, 2008

Gotcher point, Jeffrey...
But guitars, pianos 'n' basses don't necessarily P&W music make!

Over at NLM the true young, sagacious lion Jeffrey Tucker argues a compelling case as to why what he terms "Praise and Worship" music must be alienated from authentic Catholic liturgical practice. But as I got through the article plus a third of the combox "booyahs" (save for poor Eric) it occured to me that the same errant bugaboo was left hiding behind the outhouse: unless you're talking Lifeteen/Spirit&Song/Shine,Jesus, Shine/Awesome God/Matt Maher, Tom Booth, Steve Angrisano and Sarah Hart, and all the Solid Gold P&W arena anthem pensters.... isn't one obliged to define what exact elements constitute P&W music?
I wonder if all of the polemic can indeed boil down to what comboxer Eric bemoans- because I, the author, can string an elegant dialectic that does, indeed, discriminate between the truly sacred and that which, though profane in origin, doth aspire to point to the sacral (and quote the Pope TOO!) can I simply categorically dismiss all popular (in the Ruffian sense) post-conciliar music because it's simply more convenient in the supermarket of ideas?
Well, I don't want to go there. I'm just going to publicly go on record as to whom I award my first round of "Garden of Eben" GOLDEN PASSIONFRUIT statues to composers whose work should not be categorically dismissed.
"Composer Petr Eben, when asked whether the composer must take into account the nature of the assembly, responded as follows:
I certainly think that this is important, even though as a composer one must naturally always go one step beyond what people are accustomed to hearing, and it is important to produce something new. One must be one epoch or a few steps more advanced than what the hearers are accustomed to. That is certainly the task of contemporary music, as has always been the case. But in the orientation to new pieces and in the creation of new works, when new ideas occur, the hearer as the receiver of the work must be before the composer's eyes.
So, at the risk of embarrassing not only myself but others whose names I will announce as winners of the GOLDEN PASSIONFRUIT statue, I hereby publish my list of folks who defy the P&W categorization and subsequent castigation:

(Let's just get this out of the way, okay)
J. Michael Joncas- his ethos has never been boilable to OEW. Never. There, I've said it.
Janet Sullivan-Whitaker. You don't know her work? Get to and get used to it.
Bob Hurd. No, not David. Bob. He is the John Wayne of modern, chameleon like, but still authentic in output.
John Schiavone
Ricky Manalo- he can rightly be tagged with the Filipino Jesuit saccharine melodic heritage, but his universal sensibilities transcend that mode.
M.D. Ridge- the Appalachian musical Studs Terkel.
Tim Manion- this is a sentimental award for the most introspective of the SLJ's.
Lucien Diess- a bridgebuilder, if idiomatic to American ears and tastes.
Richard Hillert-okay, he's high church and a Lut'ren.

Honorable Mentions, awaiting further review... (more treasures than baubles)
Bernadette Farrell
John Foley
Randall DeBruyn

And of course, I'd love to give myself the award, but then I'd have to give one to Brian Michael Page too! Love ya, BMP.

In a future post, I'll consider whether it's worth the time to parce out the tonnage of works of composers (those above are primarily found in OCP) not so awarded this round, but whose work works the waterfront so incessantly that the word "franchise" immediately comes to mind, though may not be stylistically rooted in truly native P&W style music.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

liturgy liturgical worship "Curses!" Oops, I meant "BLESSINGS!" Why can't I just come up with something as simple and force-filled as this when trying to get across to people what our "mission" really is?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Christmas Concert 2008

The Church Music Ministry Office gladly announces that the annual Christmas Concert will be presented at St. Mary’s on Sunday afternoon, December 21, 2008 at 4:00P.M. in the church. The concert is open to the parish and the public at no charge. A free will offering will be made available for donations that will benefit our Youth Ministry’s Rome Pilgrimage.
This year’s concert will feature three vocal ensembles, our organist Mr,. Trent Barry, pianist Mrs. Sarah Webb and our chamber group instrumentalists. Schola St. Mary’s, directed by Charles Culbreth, will perform some new arrangements of favorite seasonal tunes and texts.
These will include FOUR SPANISH CHRISTMAS CAROLS arranged by Noé Sánchez that have “Alegría….El decembre congelat… Soy un pobre pastorcito….and Vamos todos a Belen” sung in Spanish and Catalonian. An original carol, ONCE, IN BETHLEHEM features a new text by Denny Clark and music by Donald McCullough. The medieval text, THERE IS NO ROSE OF SUCH VIRTUE, is set anew by Stephen Caracciolo that praises our Lord’s Blessed Mother. The plaintive American carol by John Niles, I WONDER AS I WANDER is arranged for flute and choir by Ruth Schram. Donald McCullough’s fine talents are on display again with an incredible, powerful new setting of WHAT CHILD IS THIS? The traditional British carol MY DANCING DAY receives a brand new melody and treatment by the pen of Mark Burrows. IT CAME UPON THE MIDNIGHT CLEAR also receives a lush new melodic arrangement by David Giardiniere. And John Leavitt (a Schola favorite composer) arranges a Celtic Christmas tune by Brendan Graham: CHRISTMAS PIPES.
Our new parish Women’s Choir, directed by Wendy Culbreth will debut two classical pieces: SHEPHERDS, TUNE YOUR PIPES by Henry Purcell and CELEBRATION SONG by the famed “Messiah” composer Handel.
Lastly, the Franciscan Schola, directed by Ralph Colucci, will offer some beautiful seasonal Gregorian chants to compliment the other stylistic eras represented.
Please mark your calendars to save this date and time. Our attendance last year was wonderful and very gratifying and raised significant donation to the Visalia Rescue Mission. We hope you will exceed last year’s attendance figure so that can help our youth group members offset their travel expenses to the Vatican.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Into Great Silence
I happened upon the broadcast of this extraordinary documentary last night on EWTN. So, for 2.5 hours all other considerations in our house were suspended. Still reflective upon the experiences of prison missionary work and some considerable inner reflection upon how living in community as a Christian believer literally demands and requires humiliation, even if by one's own hand, this film brings solace and succor.

Confíteor Deo omnipoténti et vobis, fratres,
quia peccávi nimis
cogitatióne, verbo, ópere, et omissióne:
mea culpa, mea culpa, mea máxima culpa.
Ideo precor beátam Maríam semper Vírginem,
omnes Angelos et Sanctos,
et vos, fratres, oráre pro me
ad Dóminum Deum nostrum.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Just an afternoon.

I’ve written before that I’ve joined a group of parish volunteers who travel a great distance each Monday night to participate in chapel meetings for Roman Catholics in one of our many state prisons. After about a year’s absence from inmates in my first yard chapel, I returned to their chapel about two months ago.
I remember that the chaplain had cautioned me upon my first night in chapel with “the fellahs” that they were vocally and musically quite challenged. That, of course, is never the case with any “group” who labor to sing well as they pray; more often they just need a helping voice with strong leadership skills.
When I returned for my second stint with the fellahs in this particular yard, I was dumbstruck in all ways by their progress over the year. Some guys had composed (as in to completely and accurately notate) remarkably sophisticated songs with profound spirituality and theological content, and often set employing contrapuntal choral techniques which were rendered quite beautifully in actual services. It was the most pure and sublime evidence of God’s power and grace mirrored in a poetic text by Henry Vaughn (which I set in one of my own songs) “And here in the dust and dirt, oh here: the flowers of God’s love appear.Recently I received in my church mailbox an envelope and letter from one of the inmate composers on official envelope stationary and the letter and a song was xeroxed. Even if you’ve ever spent only one hour watching one of the ever-popular “Locked-Up” documentary shows, one would know that this exchange was of an important magnitude. Volunteers are generally discouraged from any actions that would disclose either their own personal information or solicit personal information from inmates. And there are clear, present and rigid policies in place to maintain those distances because there is much to be risked on both sides if one party is naïve and the other is unscrupulous. Breaches, even if well intentioned or unintentional, can affect whole programs and large numbers of people in “the system.” But, apparently the authorities at this institution recognized that the letter’s content, and the song, being addressed to a “titled” person at a specific church proved no threat, contained no hidden code or agenda, and merely was an honest expression of faith and mission on the part of the inmate composer.
I’m trying to discern if God is charging me to some sort of calling beyond my initial longing to renew my own heart by sharing my “expertise” in this very Matthew 25 manner. What do I do with what I have witnessed, shared and been graced with behind those prison chapel walls?
I’ve been critical of the over-exposure of pretty pictures of TLM’s all over the LitBlogs, as if their proliferation actually works against some catholic sensibilities by an implicit self-glorification of all of their nuance and minutiae. So, is there a real calling, reason and purpose that is telling me that someone has to share that there are still martyrs and miracles happening within these severely difficult environs? Should I formally ask the warden to record, even if only for posterity, these Christian men’s musical expressions of faith in Christ Jesus? Should some part of the Christian Body, no matter how small, be reminded and gifted with these worship “arts” that are the works of men who have likely committed heinous and grievous criminal acts and are living with the consequences of those acts and their attendant guilt, yet have sought the obvious and ultimate refuge and peace in their Christian faith? Is there something very Pauline that needs to spread in this era for its own sake, not just as a token antidote to the prurient interest in the prison and gang cultures so glorified on television and film theater screens?
As I said, all of this is being discerned through prayer, counsel and common sense. “When in a prison, you came and visited me.” But then what, Lord? Oh, yeah, your Grace is enough for me.
Just over a week ago, the Catholic Chaplain let me know that he had secured a priest for a scheduled Mass at which “some” inmates would be initiated into Communion with the Church. This Mass was likely going to begin on a day and time that I am free of my normal parish responsibilities; my own time such as it is in the evening that I spend each week in chapel with the fellahs.
So, after a very beautiful morning school Mass with our kids (who are singing their “amens” and collect responses wonderfully, as well as the Ordinary and songs, I headed cross-state and arrived at the prison with an hour and a half to chill; had a green tea, read a tad of Garry Will’s new book (my bad!) and signed into the prison an hour early. When I got into my yard’s chapel many of the guys were already assembled. Their ensemble consists of an organist on an old Thomas toaster replete with bells/whistles/cheese drums (which are never used!), another keyboard, three guitarists who all sing and a couple of “just singers.” The ethnic mix is generally 50/50 Anglo to Latino regularly, so we all collaborated towards making the repertoire as bilingual as possible. In my previous visits I had also floated the concept that a natural bridge of language has always been in place in God’s wisdom and Church- that being the use of Latin. It’s always enjoyable for me personally when using my pigeon-Spanish to say “LA-teen” to the Hispanic brothers. And they’ve done well with some brief chants and collects. But with short notice and really, more out of respect for each other than political correctness, songs and settings by Bob Hurd, John Schiavone and Jaime Cortez surfaced to consensus quickly. Schiavone’s “Amen: El Cuerpo de Cristo” and Cortez’s “Vayan al mundo” were heartily embraced and sung robustly both in Monday’s chapel and at Mass after only one exposure.
Back to the chronology….
After setting up my music, stand and instrument, greeting most of the regular chapel participants and a few new faces, I sat down to pray quietly. I was seated towards the rear of the small chapel while the keyboards and others were up closer to the altar area.
I had never met the celebrant before, an older Jesuit priest who is the diocesan Social Ministries director, and it occurred to me while praying and meditating I hadn’t gone to confession for over a month. I went out into the hall office area and there were a couple of inmates waiting outside of the office-cum-confessional. I asked if they’d mind if I joined them; no problem. The one thing that keeps this whole thing, for me, real is that I am experiencing very different facets of what “communion” means for catholics behind bars. After the gentleman before me came out of the office an older, “regular” chapel inmate had also sat down in his wheelchair to await confession. He’s been positive for nearly fifteen years and recently mentioned that he stopped taking his daily “cocktail” regimen for HIV/HepC about 10 months ago. He motioned for me to go ahead of him, and I assured him I wouldn’t take long, as confessions before prison Masses can go on for many hours. After reconciliation I noticed that Father and the chaplain had their clerks call certain inmates back into the office. For what reason, I couldn’t surmise; but this is serious business for these men. So serious that the Mass, itself, didn’t begin until nearly an hour and a half after its appointed time. And the chaplain then called me out into the hall; “uh oh, what’s this mean?” I’m thinking. It turned out that the inmates who were going to be fully initiated had already received valid baptism and confirmation sacraments, so would that alter any of our musical plans? “Nope, not at all. We go with the flow” was my unintentionally punned response. Then more and more minutes passed as some men came in and out upon requests and such.
Here’s where the small voice of the messengers spoke to me internally. Here, Charles, you are never watching the clock, never worried about the next task or event. Here, though you have been waiting for over three hours to assist these men with the musical aspects of their liturgy, you are truly at peace with “waiting.” And that realization at once seemed somewhat bittersweet. Was my inner-peacefulness rooted in an authentic identification with these men in koinonia, or was it tempered by some innate convention that knew I could leave those walls and gates at will, and that “waiting” and its eremitic-like peacefulness that washes over me each visit was, therefore, conditional?
The Mass itself….
Started rather abruptly and without a sort of normal “headsup” mentality due to Father’s inadvertent leaving and re-entering the chapel. The clerks had a large whiteboard with the order of music clearly noted, so when it was apparent that Father was now “officially” present we all began Hurd’s VEN AL BANQUETE/COME TO THE FEAST.
What I didn’t mention earlier is that in Monday’s meeting a number of liturgical and theological concerns were discussed in chapel. The most obvious issue of using bi-lingual music was NOT concerned with the ethnic or linguistic facets; this issue was part of a larger fabric of instilling a sense of the sacred dialogues that occur both in scripture and in our Masses. The sharing of each other’s “mother tongue,” in a sense, reaches across both human and divine boundries. I will make this clearer shortly.
After singing the song, Father began with the “In Nomine..” and some brief remarks afterwards after which he segued directly into a spoken “Kyrie/Lord have mercy.” The music leaders had an incredibly beautiful Greek/English setting prepared, so that became moot. However, after a glance toward the lead cantor, we launched into the bilingual Gloria.
The OT reading was proclaimed separately in both English and Spanish, respectively. And then we had chosen Hurd’s “ENVIA TU ESPIRITU” for the psalm (yes, I know it’s a paraphrase!) On Monday I talked to the guys about how and, more importantly, why we were going to structure the singing of this in a particular sequence. Our lead cantor would intone the refrain, as the Psalmist, and then we would respond to that call beyond the ages. The guys are used to singing ALL of every song generally heard in chapel meetings and Masses, so I explained to them that one cantor singing the verses reflects a dialogue with many symbols: God’s Chosen People to the People of the New Covenant, God’s inspiration revealed through the prophets and evangelists, and finally the dialogic communion between heaven and earth that is the whole Eucharistic Celebration. The inmates reached consensus and understanding with much more dispatch than your average RCIA class. And then we structured the other two verses of the Hurd setting so that the Spanish-speaking inmates would sing verse two to the English speakers, and the reverse during verse three.
After the double proclamation of the epistle, the inmates had chosen a Steven Angrisano setting of the Gospel Acclamation.
After Father’s homily, a seemless mixture of English and Spanish reiterations of his major points, he initiated general intercessions which were then opened up into extemporaneous intentions uttered by various inmates.
Then, for me, we entered into a very brief, yet intensely powerful musical moment, the singing of Arguello’s RESUCITO, which I found out very few of them had ever heard prior to the previous Monday. On Monday I taught them the very simple refrain and verses, but went a little further having the English choir singers singing the parallel third above the melody while the Spanish inmates sang the melody. Then I had a couple of other guys join me on singing the parallel on the tonic, creating this primitive but beautiful triadic chorus. When we repeated this at liturgy, the effect was incredible. For those of us who understand the sublime purity of enjoining in unison plainsong chant, I ask that we also consider that these men, who like monks are required to return to their cells on a daily schedule, however do not share the daily ability to meet and labor to unify their worship as do their religious brothers who pray the hours and Mass daily. So, though a three-part singing of a very formulaic song cannot measure up to the demands of effecting pristine chant, the mere joy that was present in their singing with great precision after such little preparation is some sort of revelation or breakthrough for me. What could they do if….? Would they “get it” if they could grow in their abilities with guidance….? But, on its own, RESUCITO, right then and there, was absolute praise to God and His Grace and Power.

Why, then, this wasn't just an afternoon nor an occasion of unstructured waiting...
During the reception of Holy Communion an absolutely beautiful, sacred and holy song was taken up by the inmate choir. This song was one of many written by an inmate, who I understood had no formal musical training prior to his incarceration. Immaculately notated, as he'd learned to take musical dictation from another inmate who was a prolific songwriter, it's components were sophisticated, including use of well crafted homophony AND polyphony, "correct" chordal assignments that were light years from I-vi-ii-V7-I, and inverted chordal assignments that showed an understanding of bass note movement. NONE of that describes the spiritual power and grace of the piece. And even that pales by the realization that this was the fervent result of one man's conversion and decision as to how he was going to "pray ceaselessly" during his time in the desert cells, literally.

In this age of denigration and degradation, it is all to easy to forget that it is not standard operating procedure for believers in Christ to be perpetual cynics, critics and, to some extent, dictators of orthodoxy. The liturgy and music wars that we, myself included, perpetuate upon each other lead to dead ends, spiritually. And it's taken this very brief snapshot from the perspective of felons on the mend to just say to myself: "Pray without ceasing" and to reach for joy in my work rather than other forms of feedback and reward.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The following memo was sent to our parish's various directors and cantors:

Dear Music Ministry Leaders,

There are a few items of interest that I would like to bring to your attention regarding the programming of certain songs and hymns for use at Masses. The following is an article that outlines a decision that was first an-
nounced about a month ago from the Vatican Congregation of the Divine Faith by Cardinal Arinze. This letter to American bishops is From Bishop Serratelli:

Not to be used in Catholic worship

Holy See lays down law on use of ‘Yahweh’ and ‘Jehovah’

The Holy See has ruled that the tetragrammaton, the Old Testament’s name for God and rendered “Yahweh” or “Jehovah,” may not be used in Catholic worship.

The Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued the ruling earlier this summer, and Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship, informed the U.S. bishops of it last month.

Though the ruling does not affect in any way the official liturgy of the Mass, it will require the editing of some general intercessions used in the Mass and the celebration of other sacraments. Also affected will be some popular songs used in the Church in the United States, such as “I Will Bless Yahweh,” “Rise, O Yahweh,” and “You Are Near,” which opens with “Yahweh, I know you are near.”

“You Are Near” is among the more popular songs used in Catholic worship in the U.S., said John Limb of Oregon Catholic Press, according a Catholic News Service article in the Sept. 8 Catholic Voice, the newspaper of the Oakland diocese. The article said the Oregon Catholic Press web site lists about 12 songs that feature the tetragrammaton.

Oregon Catholic Press has already printed its songbooks for 2009, so the changes will not be apparent until 2010 at the earliest. Another major publisher, GIA Publications in Chicago, has long had a policy against using the tetragrammaton. For instance, in GIA songbooks, the song “Thanks Be to Yahweh” appears as “Thanks Be to God.”

The tetragrammaton is so called because the holy name of God in the Old Testament appears only as the four Hebrew consonant equivalents of YHWH. “As an expression of the infinite greatness and majesty of God, it was held to be unpronounceable and hence was replaced during the reading of sacred Scripture by means of the use of an alternate name: ‘Adonai,’ which means ‘Lord,’” said the Holy See’s letter. Greek translations of the Bible use the word Kyrios, translated into Latin as Dominus and in English as Lord.

“Since the text of the Septuagint constituted the Bible of the first generation of Greek speaking Christians, in which language all the books of the New Testament were also written, these Christians, too, from the beginning never pronounced the divine tetragrammaton,” the letter continued.

The New Testament’s calling the “risen Christ” Lord corresponds exactly to the proclamation of his divinity, said the Holy See. "The title in fact becomes interchangeable between the God of Israel and the Messiah of the Christian faith, even though it is not in fact one of the titles used for the Messiah of Israel."

The Holy See concluded, "avoiding pronouncing the tetragrammaton of the name of God on the part of the Church has therefore its own grounds. Apart from a motive of a purely philological order, there is also that of remaining faithful to the Church's tradition, from the beginning, that the sacred tetragrammaton was never pronounced in the Christian context, nor translated into any of the languages into which the Bible was translated."

I would suggest that should you desire to program “You are near” or other songs or hymns that contain “Yahweh” or “Jehovah,” that you inform both your singers and the congregation that a substitute term will be used in its place. In a case such as “You are near” the addressing of “Yahweh” could be easily changed to “Abba” or “Father,” or “Dear Lord,” “Lord, God” or any two syllable combination (“My Lord”) that is licit.

Despite whatever personal preferences or feelings we may have regarding this issue and the prohibition, it remains nonetheless an authoritative dictum that all faithful Catholics are bound to observe. Whatever reservations that you or I have regarding these sorts of policy issues are worthy of respect and discernment. But there isn’t any merit to be gained from debating the issue, as there can lawfully be no argument or willful disobedience.

Another issue that is not yet officially articulated, but should be considered when programming songs and hymns, are the theological and dogmatic implications of their texts. The USCCB/BCL both have sub-committees studying this issue currently. But we need not wait to re-examine our own methods and reasons for choosing our own repertoires. We need to constantly monitor our own criteria for choosing repertoire as a progressive enterprise: immersing ourselves more deeply with resources beyond those provided by our hymnals’ publishers, or by commercial exposure at conventions and catalogues. The many search engines on the WWW such as Google, Yahoo, Ask, etc., can provide you with perspectives on specific songs that you may never have considered or heard of before. Take, for example, the following quotation from an internet blog “Unam Sanctam Catholicam” (One Holy Catholic [church])-

“Now let's look at a few "Catholic" songs. First and foremost on the list of offenders is Tom Conry's "Anthem": We are called, we are chosen. We are Christ for one another. We are promise to tomorrow, while we are for him today. We are sign, we are wonder, we are sower, we are seed. We are harvest, we are hunger. We are question, we are creed. Aside from not making any sense ("we are creed"?), these lyircs completely glorify man. Gone is the centrality on worship of Jesus, gone is any acknowledgement that man is a sinful being in need of Redemption. Everything is man centered. Though this song comes from a "Catholic" writer, it leaves out everything distinctively Catholic. Furthermore, the Protestants we mentioned (Sonicflood, Keith Green and Matt Redman) all firmly believe in the Gospel (as they know it), thoroughly believe in their own unworthiness and take the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. But we know that men like Conry, Haugen and Haas believe that the some of the moral teachings of the faith are no longer true, that doctrine can change, etc. To put it blankly, the Catholic songs are driven not just by an anti-Catholic agenda but by an anti-Christian agenda."

Now, that is quite an incendiary indictment of “Anthem” by an author who uses a nom de plume rather than his/her own name. But it illustrates my point that there are many folks “out there,” including in our own pews who may well harbor many valid questions as to how our choices are aligned to sound theology, dogmatic premises and liturgical principles. “Anthem” comes to mind easily because I’ve known of it since its inception, and became aware quite early that critics of its lyrical thrust cited the heresy of Pelagianism/Semipelagianism as being transparently implicit in the prose. I’m not rendering judgment here. I’m just letting you know that we live in an extremely information-rich era, for better or worse. And because we are providing leadership in singing at the one human activity that is dogmatically defined as the “source and summit of our being” we need to go the extra distance to know “what” we are singing about and “why” we are singing it.

So, please take this information to heart. Consider this issue of texts’ merits as well as its licit theological content when programming for Sundays and other Masses.

The peace and blessings of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

This ain't a Chicken or Egg debate:
Texts supercede Tunes when cooking hymns!

(Reprinted from a combox post of mine at
the CMAA forum.)

This is an enormous topic as I see it. Without diverting to a discussion whether the Church's song should or will ever revert to primarily the psalms, the reality is that we will continue to employ hymn texts at worship for the forseeable future. And that reality should inform ourselves as well as our "superiors" that we DMs cannot just be arbiters of musical taste and viability. I agree with David's sentiment and zeal (tho' a bit melodramatic, which I love); if I'm entrusted with that responsibility originally by a pastor-it should then be common knowledge that no one supercedes that authority except the pastor. And should a pastor have repeated and fundamental problems with a DM in these concerns, the DM has a real problem that didn't surface during the hiring interview.
I'd like to offer a couple of examples of how text supercedes music:
1. As in many hymntunes, FINLANDIA was appropriated from "theater" or art music. I love everything about this melody and its harmonic foundation. Most of us, at first blush, would likely associate it with the hymn "Be still, my soul." But there are at least a handful of other texts within my office reach that someone has couched in FINLANDIA. The most recent is a strophic treatment of the Magnificat by Californian Janet Sullivan-Whitaker. (Quite a unique treatment with a very not-Kings College descant that works for my money.) There are many others that, were they in OCP, I'd program because of their text's worthiness to the tune. However, another text, "Gather and Remember" was, IMO, misappropriated by the otherwise level-headed Owen Alstott to FINLANDIA to commemorate the elevation of John 23 to Blessed. It's text is fraught with problematic, revisionist portrayals of the Church's worship through the centuries in order to praise the "spirit of Vatican II." This sort of didactic propaganda hasn't any place in an actual liturgy, no matter what tune is attached to it. (Need we mention the infamous text with NETTLETON? These two are buddies with OCP and with "Are are welcome" the 3 Musketeers of NEWCHURCH thinkspeech.) But I cannot, in good conscience, program this hymn for Sunday Mass despite the fact that I personally love FINLANDIA as MJB loves Edelweiss. I believe a studied and intuitive DM can make these assessments quite easily. I remember instantly knowing that M.D. Ridge's "Three Days" was clearly worthy of her using THAXTED the first time I sang its text in my head. Understandably, not everyone regards FINLANDIA itself as appropriate music for worship, and I'm okay with that. YMMV.
2. Strangely, one hymn tune and text that, by virtue of its title, text and meaning would seem perfectly matched, actually drives me nuts: "When in our music God is glorified..." set to ENGELBERG seems to me so pompously hokey I've never been able to justify programming it for Sundays. The tune, so very English like JERUSALEM in its leaps and bounds, is quite well matched to the grand idea of its text. So what's my problem? I suppose it's its ostentatiousness. In its own way it seems just as self-congratulatory as some of the texts mentioned above. I can't find reason or resonance with using it at my parish, even tho' we have all the requisite externals (environment, choral/organ forces, singing congregations, etc.) I think there's certain biases we all bring to our deliberations about this stuff. And not all of those involve ONLY the text to music axiom. There are other associative factors; anyone else have a bit of trouble singing EIN FESTE BERG simply because of its origins? ST. ANNE? NEW BRITAIN? HANSONS PLACE? HOW GREAT THOU ART?
I think you get the point.
Whether or not the people "like" the tune is a secondary symptom indicating a hymn's nutritional health. If you, the DM, get the whole package of a hymn to tune marriage, then your job duty is to get the people to "get" and therefore "like" the hymn as well. I know that's easier said than done, but that how I see our priorities.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Anima mea!

Does anyone else remember that mythological equation attributed to our Native Americans, Aboriginals, Nahuatal, thems that crossed the Bering Straits a whilst back?
"Don't take my picture with your damn camera! If'n you do you'll rip my soul outta myself, then I'll have t' kill ya!"

I love Carolina Cannonball's CRESCAT posts if for nothing else than the daily dose of sacred paintings she unveils. OTOH, can I borrow a page from the Haugen-Daaz haters and squeak out on behalf of another moratorium? Can we agree to cease and desist with the barrage of photos of every Ursus Antiquor/EF/TLM Mass that comes down the blogosphere pike daily as well?
Okay, we all get it! "It" is the ritual itself that is beautiful and should be experienced by all professed Christians. But the photos of same are just photos. And Lord knows there's a plenty of them at NLM and everywhere else that's Reform2 oriented to have already sufficed to sway any passersby to actually attend their nearest EF!
I'm convinced that the "shock and awe" factor in the photo album has long since passed; folks who linger on each and every pic in the neverending album have way too much time on their hands. It's a little unseemly and narcissistic for my tastes.
Record them, by all means! Put them all into a "How-to" book with audio downloads.
But the incessant parade of them has lost momentum.
Take pictures of folks ladeling out soup at rescue missions, volunteering at nursing homes and jails, rehearsing polyphony on Wednesday night when only one bass and no tenors are present among the 80/20 ratio of warbling sopranos to altos. Show pictures of folks at wedding and funeral receptions, or Christophers offering Communion at hospital intensive care wings.
That would be soul-filled.

Monday, August 11, 2008

He is watching.

Amid all the undeniable beauty at every compass point of the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Beijing I felt, as I watched, a very uncomfortable tugging within my heart and my senses that had nothing to do with the well-publicized critiques of China's political status quo in the world community.
As I watched those 15,000 Chinese souls and countless others involved in the production of the ceremony and the games, I couldn't forget that this is all brought to us by a regime and legacy of rulers that do not recognize the Divine Hand and Heart that is Creator and creation. And I wondered if underneath the spectacle, whether articulated specifically or in general, is the prevailing notion that we, humanity, can be our own gods. We can manufactor "shock and awe" or "something from nothing" and "joy and sorrow" quite well on our own, thank you. We can feng shui, if you will. I'm not condemning anyone in particular by unveiling my inner turmoil over this truly beautiful event; but what need have we of a Divine Liturgy when we can distract ourselves with this "other" ritual that is immediate, touchable, obvious, yet has all the trappings of the divine masked in its technology? I kept thinking "Wow, western pomp and circumstance in all its various ritual forms, whether incense and bells, CGI and stupid film scripts, the World Series, NCAA Final Four and the Superbowl, or even the ultrasecretive machinations of biogenetics, cannot sway the eyes of the world away from this really new testament of what a people can DO when they put their COLLECTIVE mind and muscle to the given task. China clearly means to replace I AM with WE ARE.
Speaking of CGI-finally caught "The Dark Knight." Even with the infinite litany of previews that effectively says Hal Lindsay was right, TDK was so unsettling an experience because its effect also seems to move humanity away from the notion that "God is working His purpose out." Some combox authors at "InsideCatholic" have found a miniscule glimpse of redemption in a child-character's innocent assessment at the film's conclusion. And we all see echoes there in our children and grandchildren that help us keep impetus and hope daily. But TDK is a summation of absolute desolation and despair, where both good and evil and their personifications human and divine cannot possibly reside. Disconsolation is omnipresent. It wasn't hard for me to imagine that if the extenuating premise of TDK suggests a quantum physics universe and existentialism that is random and chaotic, then the only consolation would be laughably found along the lines of "A Hitch-Hiker's Guide..."
Speaking of echoes- from yesterday's Gospel to JPII's mantra, "Be not afraid" has become a reverberating trinitarian prayer to me over the last few years. That we resolve to keep coming home to that truth is still as difficult on many levels of daily life through the generations, that the onslaughts we suffer in this era, no matter how they compare or contrast with other epochs, must compel us to adhere to the command and promise in those three simple words. Unlike Peter in this gospel moment, we Christians are already "drowned." We have already accepted death in baptism. We must continue to accept and put behind us the reality and imagination of "meaningless" suffering and obliteration and step off the edge of the boat into the abyss whenever He calls, despite knowing we will ever do this in both hope and doubt, with doubt winning by a nose. Humility is all we have ultimately.
While we're grasping towards those words "Be not afraid," we might also have in our minds another phrase "His eye is on the sparrow."
Sorry, Lucifer, you are; you're still there as well. You can taste it, can't you?
Not buying it. I'm sure you'll continue to bring it on.
I am, only because I AM.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Testing the Waters
The following is a revision of a memo I sent to clergy and musicians at my parish in a preparatory effort to start a dialogue among both ministries that will lead to more consistency among both celebrants' and musical leaderships' performance practices at Sunday Mass.

In this excerpt from the 1967 edition of Musica Sacram (Sacred Music- which is an authoritative document authored by commission of the Second Vatican Council) I want to share some guiding principles that govern how we approach our respective duties in the Sacred Liturgy. My personal commentary will be noted by italicized portions in blue.

28. The distinction between solemn, sung and read Mass, sanctioned by the Instruction of 1958 (n. 3), is retained, according to the traditional liturgical laws at present in force. However, for the sung Mass (Missa cantata), different degrees of participation are put forward here for reasons of pastoral usefulness, so that it may become easier to make the celebration of Mass more beautiful by singing, according to the capabilities of each congregation.

These degrees are so arranged that the first may be used even by itself, but the second and third, wholly or partially, may never be used without the first. In this way the faithful will be continually led towards an ever greater participation in the singing.

29. The following belong to the first degree:

(a) In the entrance rites: the greeting of the priest together with the reply of the people; the prayer. *For the celebrant, this means the “In nomine Patris”…and the Opening Prayer should be sung, or cantillated.
(b) In the Liturgy of the Word: the acclamations at the Gospel. *This means the verse sung between the intonation of the Gospel Acclamations, not the ‘Alleluia’ per se.”
.(c) In the Eucharistic Liturgy: the prayer over the offerings; the preface with its dialogue and the Sanctus; the final doxology of the Canon, the Lord's prayer with its introduction and embolism; the Pax Domini; the prayer after the Communion; the formulas of dismissal.

It is not an incorrect assumption if one notices that these first degree requirements fall upon the celebrant; this degree’s purpose thus sets the “tone” of solemnity for a sung Mass right from the entrance and opening rites. If the priest-celebrant initiates this tone consistently, the response of the Faithful should successfully follow. We at St. Mary’s already know this to be true as it is successfully practiced by our pastor and vicars. However, its consistent usage at ALL sung Masses is at issue- this is currently not done. I make this observation not to be critical of a lack of consistency, but to simply point out the Church’s will in these most important matters. One should also notice, that the highest priority of any movement in the Mass Ordinary is the Holy (Sanctus.) Basically this means, in the absence of all other factors, these musical items of the First Degree must be sung, even at the expense of other more familiar and regular items throughout the liturgy.
Lastly, we notice that the singing of the Lord’s Prayer is not commonly taken up in our parishes in the decades since Vatican II. More to follow on this.

30. The following belong to the second degree:

(a) the Kyrie, Gloria and Agnus Dei;
(b) the Creed;
(c) the prayer of the faithful.

One notices immediately that with those movements in “a” we are and have been in compliance both with choral and canted Masses insofar as congregational participation is concerned, and in the case of the early morning Sunday Mass, we are still in compliance if those in “a” are not being sung. Please also make a mental note that in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) the singing of the Gloria and the Agnus Dei have performance options, namely: 1. sung in their entirety by all; 2. sung by the choir/cantor/song leader/presider alone, in which the participation of the Faithful is enacted by their common “hearing” of those movements; and 3. in antiphonal style, where the choir and congregation alternate certain portions of these movements.

Then we should note that at our local parishes that we do not generally comply with degree items “b” and “c.”
Regarding the singing of the Creed- in my nearly 40 years of parish music ministry I have never experienced the demand or practice to sing the Credo. And, frankly, outside of the Credo of the Missa de Angelis (with its familiar melodic motives) there are few settings that a average American congregation could take up and master. Settings that use refrains or ostinato (mantras) are generally found wanting in terms of the magnitude of each of the Faithful’s obligation to profess the faith. “Credo” obviously means “I believe,” not “We believe on your behalf.” It is an unwieldy issue and, like all of these issues, one that we must ultimately defer to our pastor. But I bring it to all our attentions out of respect for the document and our faithful calling as music ministry.
Regarding the singing of the Prayer of the Faithful: because we have a plenitude of deacons and this prayer is their provenance, it would be ideal if they could, as best they could, intone these prayers. In their absence, normative practice has the lay lectors declaiming the intentions with a spoken response. If we in both the clergy and music take up this concern, there are a number of options that could maintain the lector’s participation and add the musical component to the responses.
At this point it might be opportune to remind ourselves that we Catholics do not “sing at the Mass,” we actually just “sing the Mass.” That is the over-arching reality that in practice has not yet been fully realized in most American parish practices.

31. The following belong to the third degree:

(a) the songs at the Entrance and Communion processions;
(b) the songs after the Lesson or Epistle;
(c) the Alleluia {and Lenten Gospel Acclamation} before the Gospel;
(d) the song at the Offertory
(e) the readings of Sacred Scripture, unless it seems more suitable to proclaim them without singing.

*Equally noticeable of these items listed in the third tier, is that these are the sung portions of the Mass we are most familiar and comfortable performing. The only item that does not receive attention here is “e,” with the sole exception of those years in which the Passion Readings were cantillated on Passion Sunday and Good Friday.

However, there is a great deal of information to be considered, deliberated and put into play regarding items “a-d.” that is discussed below and in even more detail in the GIRM. If both clergy and music ministry remain unaware of the hierarchies and principles in these documents (as well as the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy {CSL} and the Motu Proprios of Piux X and Benedict XVI {Tra le sollectunedi [TSL] and Summorum Pontificum [SP] respectively}) then we run a certain risk of missing the mark by omission and, worse, by commission if decisions contrary to the documents are utilized from local convention.
But, again I reiterate that the sole authority to decide on these matters remains our pastor. One should not presume that any sole practitioner is granted authority to over-ride current practice here because of the prevalent authority of the Vatican documents. We, as lay ministers, are obliged to recognize the prevalent hierarchies both in the offices of the clergy as well as the canonical documents.

32. The custom legitimately in use in certain places and widely confirmed by indults, of substituting other songs for the songs given in the Graduale for the Entrance, Offertory and Communion, can be retained according to the judgment of the competent territorial authority, as long as songs of this sort are in keeping with the parts of the Mass, with the feast or with the liturgical season. It is for the same territorial authority to approve the texts of these songs.

*Basically, this means the Bishop to the parish pastor, who then invest these decision processes to the agencies of Director of Music, Choirmasters, Songleaders, etc. If one is not familiar with exactly what a Graduale is, this refers to the organization of appointed antiphons and sung verses primarily culled from the Psalms that are assigned specifically to every Mass for every day and feast of the Church Calendar Year. In the years since Vatican II, and arguably before that council, world-wide (not just American) practice of this was, at best, nominal and more like helter-skelter. In the American Church, a common perception is that the earliest reforms within the vernacular Mass resulted in the “Four Hymn Sandwich” mode initially, with the other portions such as the Ordinary, litanies and acclamations folded in over time.

33. It is desirable that the assembly of the faithful should participate in the songs of the Proper as much as possible, especially through simple responses and other suitable settings.

This is currently not the standard practice in our parishes and virtually the vast majority of American parishes and even cathedrals/basilicas. We need not bang ourselves over the head about not knowing, teaching or doing these most native Roman forms as the reality of the replacement of Mass sung and heard in Latin by vernacular languages took over so pervasively that any vernacular settings of the Propers of the Mass {the Introit, the Gradual, Sequences, the Offertorium and the Communio} have remained quite inaccessible and not widely promulgated by both publishing houses and the U.S. Bishops and their liturgical agencies. The Gradual is the rough equivalent of what we commonly call the Responsorial Psalm.

The song after the lessons, be it in the form of gradual or responsorial psalm, has a special importance among the songs of the Proper. By its very nature, it forms part of the Liturgy, of the Word. It should be performed with all seated and listening to it—and, what is more, participating in it as far as possible.

34. The songs which are called the "Ordinary of the Mass," if they are sung by musical settings written for several voices may be performed by the choir according to the customary norms, either a capella, or with instrumental accompaniment, as long as the people are not completely excluded from taking part in the singing.

I only underscore that instruction so that we can commonly acknowledge that the Council documents do not support wholly interior, or passive participation (listening that is dubbed participation actuoso) at the expense of their right to actually engage in singing their assigned parts (participation actuosa.)

In other cases, the parts of the Ordinary of the Mass can be divided between the choir and the people or even between two sections of the people themselves: one can alternate by verses, or one can follow other suitable divisions which divide the text into larger sections. In these cases, the following points are to be noted: it is preferable that the Creed, since it is a formula of profession of faith, should be sung by all, or in such a way as to permit a fitting participation by the faithful; it is preferable that the Sanctus, as the concluding acclamation of the Preface, should normally be sung by the whole congregation together with the priest; the Agnus Dei may be repeated as often as necessary, especially in concelebrations, where it accompanies the Fraction; it is desirable that the people should participate in this song, as least by the final invocation.

The extension of the singing of the Agnus Dei by what is known as troping, is not an ideal solution to the problem of the extended time required for the Fraction Rites, particularly when Communion is being prepared for distribution under both forms. Troping is when one assigns a different nominal symbol for the term “Lamb of God,” such as “Bread of Life…..Prince of Peace…..Lord of Light….etc.” It is not unconstitutional to utilize troping, but it is problematic because different musical settings that are used locally are not all equipped for the imposition of troped invocations.
Ideally, the celebrant(s) should make a concerted effort to complete the actions of the Fraction Rite in as timely a manner as possible. Extending the time allotted the Greeting of Peace does not aid in this process, but creates a “faux” liturgical moment for which there is no officially prescribed music.

35. The Lord's Prayer is best performed by the people together with the priest.[22]

Again, as in the issue of the singing of the Creed, our common practice which has been publicly stated by our pastor and nearly every pastor I have been privileged to work under, is that the Lord’s Prayer be recited as that enables the entire congregation of lay and clerical Faithful to vocally participate in the one prayer authored by our Lord Jesus Christ. Speaking only for myself, I understand that rationale completely and have abided by the dictum articulated by our pastor for its recitation faithfully.
However I have to declare that a recent experience here at St. Mary’s reinforced my own personal appreciation for chanting the Lord’s Prayer in the quasi-chant setting in the hymnal commonly called the “Snow setting.” When a visiting missioner priest was with us a couple of week’s ago as celebrant as well as homilist, he intoned the collect with the “exhortation” to join in singing “the Lord’s Prayer” which all then did quite well. For me, personally, it was sublime on many levels. There is something to be considered when the celebrant as being both alter Christi and in persona Christi as his office demands “commands” the chanting of the prayer according to the oldest traditions of the Church. There is also a very unifying “effect” among the Faithful when the prayer is sung; what I would simply declare a tangible edification of the truly communal nature of the whole Mass. It’s particular significance is similar to that of how singing the Alleluia presages the proclamation of Christ’s words as Gospel, the Communion present in the Logos, the Living Word of God. So, after the assent to the Eucharistic Prayer with the Great Amen, the unique manner in which the prayer is chanted (as opposed to a song version that has a time or meter assigned) has, to me, a unique and thrilling link to all of Catholic Christendom both now and in all ages past. It can certainly be argued that after singing any version of the Great Amen, especially in the post-concilliar liturgical opinions that the Amen was an apex moment in the Liturgy, a sort of “relief” from singing is required until the Agnus Dei. My personal response to that mode of thought is that it reflects the “singing at Mass” ethos rather than the “singing THE Mass” ideal.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Okay, this isn't about liturgical music,'s over, folks. Let's face it.

Let Us Go to the Altar

Some reflections upon statements made by Dan Schutte recently.
His statements are in black italics, mine in blue.

*The following is an examination of some statements made by the composer, songwriter and performer Dan Schutte in an interview published in GRAPEVINE, a magazine that profiles the musicians and music of contemporary (nee pop style) Catholic artists.

While there are elements of performance in both, at liturgy the focus of the music is directed toward giving praise to God rather than directed toward the performer. The musician at worship is just a vehicle. During the years that I collaborated with the St. Louis Jesuits, we worked hard to keep the focus on God rather than on us.

*There really isn’t much in the above to quibble over save, perhaps, for the dubbing of “the musician at worship is just a vehicle.” Say, for example, that vehicle is a sailing ship. Is this schooner subject to the happenstance of wind and weather and, thus, prone to wander astray from its goal of reaching homeport? Musicians at worship function more as officers and crew under the vessel's captain, trustees of the cargo, mission and success of the voyage.

Much of my music is directed first toward those who gather as community to give thanks and praise to God at Eucharist.

*I think there is a continuation of extremely casual thought and semantics in these sorts of statements. In this era in which, later in the interview, Mr. Schutte acknowledges must contend with “style wars” he seems to accidentally create a dichotomy in the above statement. What does it actually mean that much of his music is directed at the gathered community? Couldn’t such a statement be easily used to abet the contention that there is too much contemporary hymn lyrical emphasis on praising worshippers as a community of gathered believers, rather than just having that “community” sing texts of thanks and praise to God, period? Has he not read Thom Day 101?

The “regal” images of Mary in the original text are ones that do not resonate with people as well as they probably once did. Most of us, unless we live in England, have no living experience of such images. And, as you imply by the question, many non-Catholics have difficulty with images that seem to make Mary god-like. For example, the line from the original text “You reign now in heaven with Jesus our king.” would make this hymn unusable in many non-Catholic communities.

*This paragraph is so self-damning that it shouldn’t require examination of its statements. First of all and most ironically it is published in a summer where there is a virtual cultural coronation from many quarters of AMERICAN culture of a politician whose persona is celebrated unabashedly as messianic. And if that’s not indicative of a people’s desire to invest all trust and authority with that en-fleshed singularity of power, polish and popularity, then I don’t know what a monarch is. One has to wonder if, whether in Berkeley or in St. Louis, Mr. Schutte and his SJ confreres had access to both ends of the Diana saga that had hundreds of millions of Americans and other folk glued to their televisions in the dead of night when she was married, died and buried. Even from a benign cultural perspective, I believe we in the colonies still have an abiding fondness and longing for the benevolent monarch. And again, when he cites non-Catholic resistance (as if that matters in our schema of things) to the doctrinally sound imagery of Mary, Queen of Heaven via her unique, monarchial status as Theotokos, his revisionist qualifications are quite repugnant to mainstream, much less Conservative Catholicism. If God is “Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?”- what theological damage is perpetrated upon Catholics and denominational Christians by deigning Mary Queen of Heaven. Does Mr. Schutte celebrate the Assumption and Christ the King?
My question: to what end does Mr. Schutte desire to dilute these allegorical images? Easy digestion, a common denominator that all consumers can buy into? I think the real answer to that last question is found in the following:

I took the story of the Annunciation, where Mary is visited by God’s angel, and wrote lyrics that express what I felt is the heart of that story for all of us. I tried to be true to the Scripture text and authentic in the way I wrote about this holy woman.

*The story of the Annunciation. The “story” of the Annunciation? “I tried to be true to the Scripture text and authentic in the way I wrote about this holy woman.” Am I alone in thinking Mr. Schutte is all over the map, equivocating as all get out, and vacillating regarding the inconvenience of precise language as regards our cherished doctrinal beliefs? Coming from someone with a Jesuit environment, this is paradoxically unbelievable and quite believable. But it’s also insulting.

It is simply not appropriate to say that the only kind of music should be used for worship, or even more, to impose the style that I prefer for prayer on everyone.

*It is likely very important to remember that Mr. Schutte is responding to questions from a correspondent of a periodical devoted to Contemporary Catholic Music, namely GRAPEVINE. So one could reasonably excuse his definitive statement about whether there is a rationale to debate the appropriateness of “kinds” of music used for worship. But as Dr. Mike O’Connor has pointed out in other forums, the statement conveniently skirts the gorilla in the room: is there reason to systematically exclude the two forms (styles) of music specifically and uniquely identified in the Vatican II documents from the liturgical reforms that, essentially, spawned an industry with which he and all of us have had commerce over the succeeding years?
If I should go to Dan’s workshop retreat in the mountains to the east, I might just ask him: “What factors do you, Dan Schutte, believe determines the meaning of “pride of place” in the marketplace of liturgical and sacred music practices?”

Plunkett (after Jim)
Splayed after "hard" day's refreshment.
Summuh time, an' d' livin' is way too easy!
Photo: courtesy of my wife, who's normally accustomed to photographing me in this posture.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Stolen from Nick and Jason P. over at MySpace.

As I believe that MySpace/Facebook and such places are dens of iniquity….

I came upon this via Lyn’s Organ-ic Chemist blog.Remember you can only use 2 words!

1. Where is your cell phone? At home
2. Your significant other? At work
3. Your hair? very long
4. Your brother? In theory
5. Your sister? Someplace elsewhere
6. Your favorite thing? Catholic women
7. Your dream last night? Teaching kids
8. Your favorite beverage? Cabernet Sauvignon
9. Your dream/goal? Hug God
10. The room you're in? Man Cave
11. Your ex? Ex nihil
12. Your fear? Fiery crashes
13. Where do you want to be in 10 years? Grandsons’ graduations
14. Where were you last night? Pit orchestra
15. What you're not? Politically correct
16. Muffins? Feh, bagels!
17. One of your wish list items? Daughters’ wellbeing
18. Where you grew up? Oakland CA
19. The last thing you did? Woke up
20. What are you wearing? Just boxers
21. Your TV? Too much
22. Your pets? Multis felines
23. Your computer? Which one?
24. Your life? Let go
25. Your mood? Let God
26. Missing someone? My dad
27. Your car? Which one?
28. Something you're not wearing? Socks, shoes
29. Favorite Place? Golden Gate
30. Your summer? No airlines
31. Love someone? Sweet wife
32. Your favorite color? Cobalt bleu
33. Last time you laughed sometime yesterday
34. Last time you cried? Tim Russert
35. Who will repost this? Christ, Pantocrator

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

When Scottish minds go wand'ring.....especially downunduh in Sydney

Neil at Catholic Sensibility posted the following today:

"I recently was glancing through some back issues of Worship and came across a 1976 address by the late Fr Aidan Kavanaugh, OSB upon his reception of the North American Academy of Liturgy’s first Berakah Award. Fr Kavanaugh used the occasion to report “on the liturgical business I personally have not finished nor even begun.” And, thus, he spoke about “liturgical music.” Kavanaugh tells us that music is important because of rhythm. Without sonic rhythm (to which liturgical music obviously contributes), there can be no visual rhythm. And without rhythm, there is no ritual.
So, perhaps we need to discuss rhythm. What do we mean when we speak of rhythm? Have we lost our sense of rhythm?"

To which I whiled away a quarter hour's ponderings upon: "Compelling questions and notions, Neil.And, doubtless, most answers and reflections on those notions will be inter-related.Of course we know that phonation among primates, proto-humans and homo sapiens existed before their “discovery” of other methods of making sounds and noises into organized, specific and imitative constructs.The hollowed out femur that inadvertantly becomes a flute, which imitates the voice of birds and humans; the hollow log drum, whose sonority is most pleasing when measured and played in rhythmic patterns (this is where Fr. Kavanaugh’s analogy lines up with mine.) But, I tend to imagine the more likely scenario is that dance was the primeval form of corporate “worship” to the “Other.” And if that is the egg, then music was the chicken. Music is quite at home, probably most consonant with the cosmos, within the mensurate structures of rhythm; you cannot have a melody that does not have some form of rhythmic component (sorry, diehard chant enthusiasts.)Now as regards as how measured rhythm corresponds to visual rhythm, that’s a very large elephant for this, and two other blind guys to describe. I know that the arsis and thesis of the opening Mass at WYD in Sydney was suffering from great cori interruptus. It stumbled and staggered because the various “officers” seemed to have prepared the liturgy like it was a checklist on a clipboard, rather than like storyboards or the markings of a choreographer. And when such behemoth spectacles lumber on, there is a feeling of tension among all; hell, I felt it watching it in my den. I saw it on the faces of the clergy, the director/conductor, the faces of dazed and confused kids in the congregation. That’s not to say joy and reverence were absent. It’s just that the “stunning modesty” in such liturgies is conspicuously absent, and leaves one to think “Now what?” instead of “Oh, yes!”The argument that the chant is the most sublime and suitable form of music for our Roman Rites because its rhythmic character is totally subservient to its only need to serve the aesthetically beautiful delivery of sacred texts is a very potent and attractive one. It eschews “timeliness” for “timelessness” in all meanings. But, because it very well be a singularity among all the sacred forms of music humans have engineered in that respect, that doesn’t mean we need to dismiss the rhythmic attributes of the majority of other forms as being alien to our liturgies."

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Reflections of My First EF

Over at the Musica Sacra Forum, '08 CMAA Colloquim attendee "Gerry" posted an eloquent and insightful commentary about attending EF Masses that I somewhat categorize in the "Great Expectations" folder.

I thought that revisiting my own '07 Colloquium EF experience might bring yet another perspective that confirms that in our liturgical pilgrimage, we should never expect to actually ever "arrive" home in this life.

A "different take" on the TL from this convert of 37 years:I would first emphasize that these thoughts and recollections surfaced to conscious expression in rather anticlimactic environments, namely airports and while confined in the surreal silver tubes flying me “home.” And, of course, all of these are thus visceral and immediate “feelings” that I called up and laboriously scribbled (as BMP would say) before drifting into other activities one does while in transit. From my journal:“Sunday, June 24, 2207. Sitting in Dulles, chilling from unexpected flight rearrangements.I went to my first Tridentine Mass yesterday. My initial and still current feeling is that, for me, it was an “alien(ating) experience as worship in this era. In one way, I wish that feeling would have melted away during the Mass. An now (it seems) that the other rites/forms celebrated during the CMAA colloquium served as “first courses,” or precursors to it.As I understand it, the TL is consistent and consonant with all of the various and unified Roman Rites from the 5th-16th centuries, and that the TL was a necessary and consistent, faithful reform itself (see Bugnini critiques.) So the need and argument for “reform of the reform” is based upon not only canonical imperatives, but upon a morality of faithful adherence to nearly 2 millennia of Roman liturgical culture.But, can’t it also be a valid and worthwhile contention to point out where certain aspects and affects of a well-sung TL Mass can either “cause” or result in both engagement and disengagement with the liturgy among the lay worshiper? For example-*The ad orientem posture of the celebrant et al is not an obstacle to “engagement” in and of itself. It is a powerful posture for obvious reasons. However, it’s “presentation” is so incessant it seems unrelenting and, even for a stalwartly interested novice, becomes difficult at the least to remain focused, intent, engaged- active within the subtle nuances of unheard orations and ornate actions.*I don’t believe I’ll ever be reconciled to the notion that it is more beneficial and, of course, proper to barely hear the “Lessons.” Why is the “Verbum Domini” solely to be sung or spoken in Latin? Porque? Oh yes, we’ll have the missal with the side by side. But there seems to be a sort of duplicity when defending the parallel missal when it’s Latin to vernacular, while disdaining the very same formula for vernacular to vernacular. The (refuge) argument, I suppose, is that Latin is our “Mother Tongue” during the “table prayer” and we don’t switch “moms” in the middle of dinner. But I think I recall that Jesus’ words were spoken in the language appropriate to those of His listeners- Aramaic to the masses, Hebrew for the clerics. And didn’t St. Paul also make a point of deferring to the befitting tongue? When the Church codified the canons of scripture and the dogma the Christ is the “LOGOS” (not the “Verbum”,) doesn’t that imply a malleable notion calling for a fully vocalized and fully verbalized intelligibility? Bottom line: I was adrift a lot, and a compass (missal) would likely not have made me feel closer to home. Lastly, if within the TL there is still a distinct Liturgy of the Word, shouldn’t it be heard by all and understood?Yes, I know I need schoolin'. I'm doing it. But I share this with you all as a seeker still on this life's journey of faith. I'm not trying to advance any judgments, per se.

These were just my initial thoughts, post-CMAA.


Those reflections led to this good exchange with my RPI friend, Andrew:

Charles, thanks for your thoughts on this matter. It's nice to hear a response to the classical liturgy that isn't full of derogatory metaphors and mockery.

You know, Andrew, the way I figure it, there's a huge amount of stuff "at stake" in these matters, so I don't take them frivolously. I'm gratified you appreciate my concerns.

Do you see this as something that may change with repeated exposure? I'm quite accustomed to "ad orientem," largely due to a frequent experience of it in Anglican churches, and I prefer it, without exception.

Yes, and I agree with the Holy Father's rationales (Spirit of the Liturgy)for "ad orientem." I, like Mike, wished Msgr. Skeris (sp?)could have projected certain orations more fully. I know that there's a great deal of debate regarding authentic, proto-Christian practice of re-creating the "Last Supper" versus the advent of "ad orientem," but if only for losing the "cult of personality" I'm in favor of facing east.

Are you referring specifically to the proclamation of Scripture here, or to the Mass at large? You make valid points. However, I would point out that while Jesus preached in Aramaic, he would have been speaking Hebrew in the Temple. Even when our Lord read the scroll of Isaiah and ended with, "This has been fulfilled in your hearing it," the reading would of course have been in Hebrew.

Really just the Lessons and Gospel, Andrew. But, you'll notice I did cite our Lord's obvious command of liturgical propriety regarding speaking Hebrew in temple. But I think I take your point about both propriety and consistency within the structure of formal rites (ala "not changing moms in the middle of the meal.")Thanks for engaging and helping me out here.


Then my other RPI bud and mate at '07, Dr. Mike O'Connor chimed in:

Do you see this as something that may change with repeated exposure? I'm quite accustomed to "ad orientem," largely due to a frequent experience of it in Anglican churches, and I prefer it, without exception.

Yes, and I agree with the Holy Father's rationales (Spirit of the Liturgy)for "ad orientem." I, like Mike, wished Msgr. Skeris (sp?)could have projected certain orations more fully. I know that there's a great deal of debate regarding authentic, proto-Christian practice of re-creating the "Last Supper" versus the advent of "ad orientem," but if only for losing the "cult of personality" I'm in favor of facing east.Regarding ad orientam, for me it weens me off listening to the priest (natural reaction of his facing an "audience") focusing on the text in the missal. I find that I engage with the words more than when I just listen. Also it really does de-emphasize his personality and make him seem more a part of the group who steps into the sanctuary to lead rather than a situation where he is the focus of attention and we are there to see him do his thing.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Then panacea!
My take on...

Sacred Music that Serves the Word of God
from the interview on Zenit with

Father Samuel Weber on Sacred Music Institute
conducted by Annamarie Adkins

Dear Friends and inadvertent readers,

In the interest of not wasting your time, I have edited the whole interview in order to more speedily address issues of my concern. For the unedited interview, go to ( I will select portions of Fr. Weber's responses and indicate those by using blue to color those portions. My responses will then be noted in red.

ST. LOUIS, Missouri, JULY 4, 2008 Parish music directors -- and congregations -- in the Archdiocese of St. Louis soon will benefit from Archbishop Raymond Burke’s recent initiative: The Institute for Sacred Music.Archbishop Burke, who has since been named to head the Apostolic Signature, the Church's supreme court, appointed Benedictine Father Samuel Weber as the first director of the new institute earlier this year.
Father Weber is a professor in the divinity school of Wake Forest University in North Carolina and also a monk of the St. Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana.

Q: Is there a difference between sacred music and religious music?

Father Weber: Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, we can make a distinction. Sacred music, properly speaking, is music that is united to a sacred text -- especially psalms and other scriptural texts and texts of the Mass, such as the Introit, Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, etc., and it includes certain traditional hymns that are -- or have been -- part of the official liturgical books.The authority of the Church must confirm all the liturgical texts; these sacred words are not to be altered in setting them to music.All sacred music is “religious music,” obviously. But religious music would encompass everything from classic hymns to contemporary songs with a religious theme in a wide variety of styles and varying quality. Not all religious music is suitable for sacred worship, certainly.

The following statement of Fr. Weber’s I find the least problematic in terms of implications. On the other hand, in terms of applications, that’s a whole other can of worms….

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of competent authority -- i.e., the bishop or the Holy See -- to determine the suitability of all religious music for sacred worship, even though parish musicians will usually choose the music for a parish Mass and other liturgical celebrations.

Both halves of this statement’s equation are, on face value, valid. I, for one, would love to hear my bishop, any of my former bishops or anyone else’s, pipe in now and then about the status quo of worship and music in their sees. However, this presumes that such a bishop is actually a competent authority in the realm of sacred music and, because of Weber premises to follow, music in general; enough so to determine a”music’s” suitability. One might counter that bishops lacking that competency should retain the services of staff such as Fr. Weber who do possess the requisite knowledge to inform the “authority.” But, as we have seen over the decades, that hasn’t worked out all that well either. Just ask Archbishop Wuerl.

All Church musicians need to be able to make truly informed choices about appropriate music for use in the liturgy, based on authentic Church teaching. This is not always easy, nor is the choice simply a matter of taste.

Again, this statement rings very true, but “authentic Church teaching” also endorses and, in fact, encourages and fosters the creation of contemporary sacred art in service to the liturgy and edification of the faithful. As I recall, document statements do not directly specify any artistic (not literary) parameters contemporary artists must adhere to in the promulgation of those new works. However, it seems that there is a clear crescendo of voices who have intuited from the “pride of place” assignment to chant and polyphony, that those documents meant to, or should have, gone further towards clarifying that such parameters are implicit, and that “new music” must have obvious DNA and tendons connecting its forms to the music native to the Roman Rites.

Q: Many complain about popular or secular forms of music creeping into the liturgy, but this has been a perennial problem for the Church. What causes this recurring problem, and how have the great renaissances in sacred music such as those fostered by Palestrina and Pope St. Pius X turned the tide?

Father Weber: Yes, you could say that the concern about secular -- or frankly anti-Christian -- musical styles supplanting sacred music in worship is perennial -- though it may manifest itself differently in different cultures and historical periods.

I’d be interested in knowing if Fr. Weber would notice any resemblance between his acknowledgement that there are, in fact, “frankly anti-Christian musical styles” and the former Senator Jos. McCarthy speechwriter cum preacher, Billy James Hargis whose mantra in the formative era of popular rock music decried that “rock and roll sapped the moral fiber of the young, unwittingly achieving the goals of the revolutionary left.”? (S. Turner, THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THE BEATLES, Westminster John Knox Press)

For example, in early centuries, all music other than chanting was strictly forbidden by Church authorities, because use of musical instruments had strongly pagan associations.

I have already allowed that Fr. Weber is employing a casual, easily digestible dialectic in the interview. But this statement, based upon the psalms alone (which he later cites,) shouts out for citation and evidence. What early centuries, exactly forbade instruments? Those of the Medieval, those of the post-resurrection Churches particularly when they spread throughout the Grecian peninsulas and isles and into North Africa and eastward into what is now Armenia? If modern musicology has made such declarations with proof positive, I haven’t heard of it yet. And, if that’s so, please someone tell me so. But I really suspect that the omission of such citations would undermine his premise that there is documented evidence of a formal ban upon instrumental music at service that originated in an already well-institutionalized Church, whose very existence, out of necessity, demanded the formation of a universal culture both in worship and theology. But I am yet and still wondering if Fr. Weber would acknowledge the also-documented reality that not only the organ, but instrumental ensembles were at regular use doubling the voice parts of late Renaissance motets and service music in Venice and elsewhere? And this implies, despite this occurring after the Council of Trent and the Palestrinian myth that polyphony could co-exist with chant as the official “voice” of the Church, that some other competent authorities in Venice officially endorsed the Gabrielli’s mode of polyphonic “orchestration.” If Fr. Weber can imply, others should be granted that privilege as well.

In the 19th century, the style of opera had so greatly influenced Church music that Pope St. Pius X warned strongly against this “profane” music, and forbade composing music imitating operatic styles. He initiated the 20th Century Liturgical Movement by his 1903 document, “Tra le Sollecitudini.”

In particular he encouraged Gregorian chant, which he (Pope Pius X) said in the third paragraph of the document, “has always been regarded as the supreme model for sacred music,” thus “it is fully legitimate to lay down the following rule: The more closely a composition for Church approaches in its movement, inspiration and savor the Gregorian form, the more sacred and liturgical it becomes; and the more out of harmony it is with that supreme model, the less worthy it is of the temple.”It was Pope Pius X, also, who coined the phrase “active participation” of the people. And he also said in paragraph five of the document that “modern music is also admitted to the Church, since it, too, furnishes compositions of such excellence, sobriety and gravity, that they are in no way unworthy of the liturgical functions.”

Well, we now get to Fr. Weber’s first substantive citation. And despite my inclination to fundamentally agree in principle with that Holy Father and Fr. Weber, the papal utterance that chant “has always been regarded as the supreme model for sacred music” is not a dogmatic, inerrant pronunciation of fact. Its truth does bubble up from real belief and practice that Tradition subsequently codifies. But there were hundreds of courts of the princes of the Church throughout humanist Europe that testify that chant was not so highly regarded, and in fact, discarded. And Piux X’s motu proprio was primarily directed at such “courts” in his own geographical region. In simple terms, Fr. Weber, like many, are perfectly willing to hang their hats solely upon what “he said,” rather than a more thorough analysis of the Church’s musical geneaology.

After the Second Vatican Council it was the pop and folk style music of the late 1960s and 1970s that dominated newly composed music for worship -- Catholic and Protestant. Despite the Constitution on the Liturgy’s emphasis on the “pride of place” for Gregorian chant in the liturgy, the council’s teaching was ignored, and chant virtually disappeared. The reasons for this are many and complex. But one major element was plain confusion and misunderstanding. The liturgical reform following the Council was astoundingly rapid, and serious upheavals in the secular world of those times also affected the anti-authoritarian mood within the Church. This was played out dramatically in the liturgy. Changes were made precipitously with too little consultation with the bishops...

The present “renaissance” in liturgical music we are now seeing is in large part due to Pope Benedict XVI and his many scholarly works on the subject even before he became pope.The historic heritage of sacred music, then, always serves as an indispensable teacher and model of what best serves the celebration of sacred worship, and leads worshipers to greater holiness. Just a reminder that this is premised upon the “he said” philosophies of Piux X, which I do not dispute. But this “heritage of sacred music” glaringly omits those forms which were quite dispensable and controversial models” of what best serves the celebration of sacred worship. My own experiences “in the fields” for nearly four decades also compels me to wonder how anyone, Fr. Weber included, can unequivocally determine that alone which can lead “worshippers to greater holiness.”

(Part 2)
In Part 2 of this interview with ZENIT, Father Weber discusses why he thinks chant is "the song that [God] wants to hear from our lips and our hearts."

Q: Why did the Second Vatican Council state that Gregorian chant should be given "pride of place" in the Church's liturgy?
Father Weber: The Second Vatican Council's constitution on the liturgy, "Sacrosanctum Concilium," as well as numerous statements of the Popes and the General Instruction of the Roman Missal [GIRM], teach us that Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony -- that is, sacred music sung in harmony -- such as compositions of Palestrina, are to enjoy "pride of place" in sacred worship.
This means that chant is not only to be in common use in the liturgy, but it is also to provide examples and inspirations for new compositions.
The reason for this is to assure a genuine organic development in the sacred music Catholics experience in worship -- in continuity with the Church's history,
and transcending limitations of time and cultures.
Understanding and appreciating this universality in Catholic music for worship might be seen as one facet of the obedience of faith

Now we’re seeing the incisors of Fr. Weber’s argument: “I have proven the contention that chant fulfills all of the criteria for authentic worship according to the Roman Rite. Now, we must implement the reforms that will correct the mistakes that were tacitly allowed in former centuries, not just the twentieth. To accomplish that, the Faithful must accept the discipline of “obedience of faith.” Again, I don’t have a library at hand as I type, and I suspect that this term that Fr. Weber uses might be a rhetorical contrivance made in good faith. But at first blush, faith as a veritable human expression comes after a personal revelation or epiphany in the supremacy and benevolence of I AM. I don’t recall anyone declaring that human free will (though obviously not always a good thing) is quashed and subjugated by the Almighty before that individual decision to believe according to faith., thus laying the way for the submission and yielding to the blessing of believing, having not seen and touched Christ’s wounds. Our faith is accepted and embraced in mystery. And upon that mystery we human believers then tend to apply the disciplines necessary to express, nurture and perpetually cultivate that faith. And that also necessitates obedience to many things. But Fr. Weber’s employing of this term, “obedience of faith,” seems another convenient deus ex machina that merely says, yet again: we’re all gonna chant, and we’re all gonna like it, like it or not.”

We need to remember, of course, that the Council teaches under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. God is telling us both how he wants to be worshiped, and what best serves the religious needs of those gathered for sacred rites.
Now we have the “good” Vox Dei!” Is this the same Holy Spirit of Vatican II that Blessed John XXIII acknowledged, or the smoke of Satan that Pope Paul XI brooded over? God, Himself, whom scripture occasionally mentions that his concerns about worship are less about how, than why we worship, is telling us (via “Tra le sollectudini”) actually HOW He wants to be worshiped. My mind moves to King David’s elegant muse (The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want….) and am somewhat amused that the Lord of all universes “wants” for anything. He loves, that I know. He loves me, I know that as well. He loves me to love Him, that I know. If that means He wants me to love Him, I can live with that. That he wants me to express my reciprocal yet lesser love for Him through praising him only through the virtues of chant (in any language) seems to require a huge leap of faith. Maybe that’s Fr. Weber’s self-fulfilling logic. Or maybe I'm just blowing smoke? Who knows?

Before all else, worship is about God. It is the duty of the creature to know, love and serve the Creator, and to render to God the service of prayer, praise and thanksgiving that is his due...
Historically, Gregorian chant is in direct, organic development with ancient cantilation -- chanting -- patterns of the psalms in temple and synagogue. This was the background and experience of the first Christians. So our chanting today is in direct relationship with theirs.
One can see, then, that when we sing the chant, we are truly "in connection" with our fathers and mothers in the faith.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph heard and sang many of these patterns of sacred chant in synagogue and temple worship. The apostles, the martyrs, the great saints whose witness continues to inspire us today, were all nourished on these traditions of sacred chanting.
Even the saints and blesseds of our own day -- Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, St. Pio of Pietrelcina, St. Gianna Beretta Molla, for example -- all sang, heard and knew the chant and the traditions of sacred music inspired by the chant.
They were formed in this "school of sacred music" that is the chant, and, to borrow a phrase from St. Athanasius, the "gymnasium of spiritual exercises"
that is the Psalter -- the Psalms of David.
I think, too, of my grandparents and parents, so many beloved family members, teachers and friends, who have gone before us "marked with the sign of faith."
How they loved the sacred chants, and passed them on to me with piety, devotion and reverence. What an opportunity to participate in the Communion of Saints. What could be richer or more spiritually satisfying?
Gregorian chant serves the word of God. It has no other purpose than to draw us to the sacred text, especially the Psalms, and to enable us to treasure God's word ever more deeply in our hearts.
It is entirely free of anything that is contrary to the faith, free of purely human agendas or experiences that lead us away from God's will and plan for us. To use the language of our computer age: The chant is "safe and secure." No viruses can enter.
I would have commented about this declaration, but Todd Flowerday has already voiced similar concerns in his post of today at “Catholic Sensibility.”

Q: Benedict XVI has given a number of speeches discussing the importance of preserving the Church's heritage of sacred music, and a number of documents have been issued by the Holy See calling the universal Church back to that grand tradition, yet little seems to have changed on the ground. Why is there resistance to what should be seen as a form of Vatican II's concept of "ressourcement," that is, return to the sources?
Father Weber: Perhaps it is not so much resistance as a lack of communication and ineffective teaching that stalled things.
Pope Benedict is tireless in his teaching -- even before he became Pope -- for example, "A New Song for the Lord." An accomplished musician himself, he fully understands the power of music on the human heart, thus the central role of music in the liturgy.
Clearly, part of our task is to help "get the word out." I think we can already see many positive results of the recent actions of the Holy See concerning the liturgy.
For one thing, there is a growing interest among Catholic people in reviving their immensely rich heritage of music and art, and a real desire for greater beauty, reverence and solemnity in worship.
By all means, yes! Hear, hear…..huzzahs……damn skippy!
But when there is actual resistance? In the end, I believe that this comes down to the perpetual struggle between good and evil. God is constantly giving us all the grace we need to know, love and serve him.
But we are tempted by the devil, and suffer under the effects of original sin, so we sometimes make choices that, sadly, draw us away from God our Creator, and even extinguish the fire of love in our hearts.
I’m hearing Tiny Tim in the distance of time, singing “Tiptoe through the tulips….” It could be Rudy Vallee, hard to tell. Anyway, is this the pastoral face of the faces of the farcical organization, the Society for the Moratorium Upon Haugen, Haas, Joncas et al showing? Is it deplorable to suggest that many bereaved folks show unimpeachable evidence that the singing of “Be Not Afraid” or “On Eagles’ Wings” alongside that of In Paradisum at a funeral Mass drew their souls closer to God? Or should I just gently refuse their testimonies of the past, and gingerly steer them away from these musical and poetical buoys that they call for in the future? Do the angels weep or wag their fingers when a funeral congregation sings “Be still my soul’ or “Shall we gather at the river?”
It is the duty of all the pastors -- that God in his love has given us -- to call people back to that which will bring us true peace and blessedness. With great wisdom, over the centuries the popes, the Councils, have understood the importance of sacred music, art, architecture and ritual in the spiritual formation of the human person.
As a result, they have never ceased to teach us about the care that must be exercised in cultivating all sacred arts that serve divine worship.
Now it is our job to receive this teaching and implement it in our lives for our spiritual good...
It's encouraging to know that many people who are discovering chant for the first time are so strongly attracted by its beauty and solemnity that they want to become a part of its revival.
Speaking from experience, I would agree that Gregorian chant may require a greater discipline, more attention and sacrifice of time and energy in order to "make it happen" in our parishes.
But difficulty is not a real impediment.
In our American society we greatly value sports. I'm a Green Bay Packers fan myself, rabid, actually.
I'm really grateful to the Packers for all the hours they spend in practice and preparation for their games. All the sacrifices they make. It's worth it.
The payoff is really something awesome. We, the fans, would settle for no less. Doesn't this same expectation apply to the things of God?
It really isn't that hard to understand, is it?

No, Fr. Weber, to disciplined and accomplished musicians it’s our bread and butter. When I taught choral music in the public schools I dubbed our daily rehearsals as “hitting the sleds” that would lead to the payoff, if not on the stage, then in the rehearsal room. But does that maxim of “practice and preparation” also apply to all other forms of sacred and liturgical music performance? And were that systematically called for and supported, would we find ourselves longing for “just the chant, please.”?
St. Augustine taught the people of Hippo: "Cantare amantis est." Singing is characteristic of a lover. If the supreme love is, as we believe, between Christ, the Bridegroom, and the Church, his Bride -- can any effort be spared to express this love in true beauty? Is any sacrifice too much?
We don't have to guess at the song. This tremendous Lover of ours tells us the song that he wants to hear from our lips and our hearts.

Not all of us have been guessing, it has to be said. We have deliberated, we have practiced, we have separated the wheat from the chaff. The Lover does require a song from us. But in song, just like in all of Creation, in the beginning was the Word. The music followed.
This is our Catholic faith. What more need be said? Let us begin!
Just a moment, Father. I know this is another can of worms, but I can’t let this commentary pass without observing that your interview remarks reflect an absolute Western POV that subsumes enculturation, and presumptively makes it “less than or second class” by its direct omission from the body of your argument. And yes, I’m aware that Latin is alive, universal and all-inclusive. In principle and here and there in far flung places, in practice.

Well, dear Reader and hopefully still-Friend, you have it. The extemporaneous reflections (you could tell, right?) of this aging artifact of the Music Wars Era, post WWII episode. Please take any, all and your best shots at my "take." For there's not a one of us that can't use a little more schoolin', now and then.

'Til then, vaya con Dios,

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