Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Myths, Truths, Facts, and Irrelevancies from Cal Cath Daily Combox article

California Catholic Daily became the third Blog organ to reprint a now somewhat incendiary article by Jeffrey Tucker that I've commented upon twice already (below). But the toxicity levels that have been engendered both at the second reprint, online "CRISIS MAGAZINE" and at Cal Cath Daily comboxes compels me to respond with some perspective that neither Mr. Tucker (though he is an accomplished choir and chant director at his parish, but not a parish Music Director) nor the legions of unhappy people of all bleeding stripes seem to grasp as reasonable realities that must, like all symptoms, be first isolated and then identified before a prognosis and regimen of recovery is undertaken by doctor, patient and support people.


Myths: "Another bad fruit of the “spirit” of Vatican II is that any song or type of music is suitable for Mass."

The myth is simple in that this statement has never been universally true. There are, to be sure, thousands upon thousands of anecdotally true accounts of music abuse to the Divine Liturgy. But this was not a result of VII, or any so-called spirit or smoke therein.

"It would also be better if there were no music when receiving Holy Communion so that people could pray in the quite. (sic) "
No, the Mass is, according to every major liturgical document and as far as tradition informs us, essentially one entire song of dialogue exchanged between God and His Faithful, using the Word given us, as the Holy Father in so many books and encyclicals reminded us, come primarily from the Psalter, the Psalms. Quiet Masses, Missa lectas, even Low Masses (with/without hymns) are all subsets of the solemn High Mass, in a word, a “sung” entity. Those who insist that “their private prayer time” should not be infringed upon by the communal song of a congregation or a decent choir demonstrate a lack of basic sacramental theology, which Pope St. Pius X and many of his forebears in that office have tried to bring to the people for over many centuries. Musical abuse of the liturgy extends much further back, also in centuries, than the last fifty years. Back in the “Bells of St. Mary’s” days, folks simply said “Offer it up.” Now, if someone claims the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as licitly theirs to modify at their whim and will, they should be willing to call themselves Protestants.

"Those who love both God and music are overjoyed when we worship with our most moving music, and those of us who are appalled by so much of what passes for music these days long for the days when it was all so masterfully chosen and sweetly presented."
Those days were no different than these days. In fact, I’m rather sure after four plus decades of doing this with (if needed) degrees in sacred music literature, that the actual performance abilities of those choirs under professional (in both senses, dedication and career) directors has actually improved after Vatican II. School choirs in lofts singing as best they could the Requiem is a nostalgia. Films from the thirties to this day also offer what seems a pervasive beauty that, in reality, rarely existed in the pre-conciliar years. The book by Tom Day, WHY CATHOLICS CAN’T SING, clearly cuts both ways. There were no golden days in the first half of the twentieth century in Catholic U.S.A. One must do one’s homework before waxing nostalgic.

"Why seek to recover? Post-Vatican II music is uniformly awful."
The indignity of such an ill-informed, nee ignorant declaration doesn’t deserve a proper response. It’s simply not the case. Such an opinion can only be spoken by someone who can’t be bothered by facts, or to find the truth. But for the lazy of heart:


"There is no silence at any time, except while the homily is spoken. Even when two communion hymns are sung, and there are still people in line, they must be playing instruments. Silent prayer is not allowed."
I am very sympathetic to this plea. However, if that abuse does exist at your parish, I respectfully invite any parishioner to speak to the pastor about GIRM (rule) 45, that mandates silence at three specific points of all Masses. If you receive no satisfaction, document that, take that to the chancery. If that is not responded to properly, file your document grievances to the Vatican, attention the commission Ecclesia Dei. There is no wiggle room on this one.

"The Church has centuries of music appropriate to the Liturgy, and the one person who has the responsibility to choose that music for Mass is the pastor, or the priest who will be offering the Mass on that particular Sunday, for his Mass."
Again, with sympathies towards the deeper meaning of this complaint, each celebrant reserves the canonical right to oversee the music chosen for Masses he offers. That is not quite the same as "to choose." But, anyone who has eyes to see, ears to hear in this era, knows that the modern priest, if truly engaged, spends tremendous amounts of time with pastoral duties in hospitals, homes, his office, various meetings of the canonically required councils as well as other parish enterprises such as religious education et al (Our parish has 73 -different mission-based ministries and organizations.) And, if they have an ounce of energy, then they still fulfill their obligations to offer Mass, keep the Office, hear-confessions, anoint the sick, communicate to the dying and bed-ridden. A modern pastor who actually is engaged will also then surround himself with competent “surrogates,” such as a professional, Catholic musician, whom he trusts will put into place his vision and preferred repertoire of worship music. My job would be a cakewalk if any of our priests were actually capable of choosing music for worship. It’s simply not the case in modern life.


"Stop the clapping people…..It just encourages more clapping when the musicians respond with a hearty “Thank you, thank you”. Ugh!"

"Give Glory to God and block your ears if you don’t appreciate the talent or lack of talent that the people are trying to use to Worship Him. +JMJ+"
Amen, again. Better yet. Stop complaining and help in any and all ways to improve your parish situation. For every dedicated singer and musician I have in my program, there are likely nine others who, for whatever reason, decline to commit themselves to the discipline it requires to maintain a great musical ministry.

"Why is the Pope’s Sistine Chapel Choir so bad?"
Because, like everything else that gets everyone hot under the collar, the “politics” or better yet, the “exercize of power” is perceived by church insiders, whether lay or clerical, as being more important an interest than actually ministering to people is pastorally healthy ways. The incompetency of Capella Sixtina in the last century is both legend and fact. And it is testimony to the reality that there were no golden eras in recent eras. One of their former maestros, recently presented his red hat by HF Benedict XVI for a lifetime of service, personally butchered the presentation of Roman Catholicism’s greatest composer, Palestrina, every time he directed one of the master’s great Masses or motets. You can hear better renditions of Palestrina at St. Anne’s in San Diego or St. Stephen’s in Sacramento, other CA. parishes if you look, and likely the local public high school. If one really wants to talk about putting on a “show” tune into the next broadcast from St. Peter’s and REALLY listen to the pope’s choir. I personally think their bellicosity aged John Paul the Great much more than he ever let on. My opinion.


"As long as the Bishops continue to cave in to the Oregon Catholic Press and its acquisitions as a virtual monopoly over American liturgical music, these efforts at remediation won’t go far."
At USCCB Plenum Meetings, presidents from Archbishop Gregory to even Cardinal Dolan have systematically and with casual consensus of the majority tabled or remanded the “problems” of hymntexts and other musical concerns to the bishoprics of Abp. Vlazny and Cdl. George, which also happen to be the homes (Portland/Chicago) of OCP and GIA/WLP respectively. Efforts by few bishops such as Abp. Vigneron (from a conservative POV) to Trautman (progressive) were dismissed immediately after they’d made motions regarding the use of propers, or in Trautman’s case, a call to review the 3rd edition of the English translation of the Missale Romanum.


"EWTN has been going downhill for years ever since the imprudent decision of Mother Angelica to step down over a decade ago."
EWTN has demonstrated, until very recently, very little interest in actively promoting the improvement of “liturgy” per se. Interviews with Tucker, great programs infrequently such as produced by Corpus Christi Watershed that don’t cost EWTN a dime have just now made a blip on their radar. Their daily conventual Mass has struggled (at what cost?) to present at best an incoherent liturgical praxis with it’s tippy toe back and forth between the OF in Latin one moment, and English the next.

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