Traddys vs. Moderns and the Stupidity Thereof

As the New Translation of the English Missal nears, I am getting more and more pumped about the Liturgy. It is the greatest thing since sex. (And I do not mean that flippantly; the marital union is but a shadow of the union attained at the wedding feast between Heaven and Earth.)

But alas and alack and areallylame, these seem to be the days when one must ‘pick sides’ in regards to the Liturgy, between the (what?) Traditionalists? Conservative Catholics? Latin-Massers? and the (who?) Modernists? Charismatics? Liberals?

As an aside, does any one know where I can pick up some delicious kicks such as the Pope doth rock?

But it is the falsest of dichotomies. I speak with a severe lack of knowledge of all the various encyclicals, council decisions, etc. but I do bring to the table the experience of a child who has grown up amidst this conflict. And I know this: Now is the time to mend the wound. Now, following the example of our beloved, peace-making Pope, is the time to lay down our factional weapons and learn what it is to be Catholic. This means all of us, from the “Latin-is-the-only-language-acceptable-for-the-Mass!”, “Organ-or-death!”, “The Novus Ordo is heretical!” folks, to the “Vatican II lets us do what we want with the liturgy!”, “Whatever leads me to Jesus is good for the Mass!” people.

Take my favorite example; Music in the Liturgy. The two ‘sides’ split up as follows. On the one hand, Gregorian Chant has pride of place, and therefore it – along with various traditional hymns – is all that should be allowed in the liturgy. On the other: Any music that glorifies God should be allowed in the Liturgy, so break out the mandolin, we gone have a FOLK MASS!

But both views ignore the Liturgy. The first points out the Church’s extolment of Gregorian Chant – rightfully so – and then makes one projection; it is all that should be used, and avoids one question: Why is Gregorian Chant given pride of place?

The second projects a complete falsehood onto the Liturgy. Rap music can glorify God. As can naked dancing. That doesn’t mean it belongs in the Liturgy. We should never seek to ‘put things into’ the Mass, for the Mass is a gift. We receive it. We conform to it, it does not conform to us, nor to our age. Thus it is absolutely wrong to have a ‘contemporary’ Mass, or to have a ‘modern music’ Mass. It’d be akin to receiving a painting from a friend, and drawing on it with a Sharpie all that you’d like to be included in it. Only to an infinite degree, for which you will inevitably be all up and smited upon by a thunderous, frowning Deity.

The reality does not simply lie between these two opposing views; it is the center that these views ripple from. The reality is that the Mass, being a gift from God, does not deserve some particular genre or style of music, or some age of music. It deserves objectively beautiful music that allows for contemplation. Gregorian chant is given pride of place because it has proven itself to fulfill those terms. But that in no way excludes other forms of music fulfilling those terms. Thus secular instruments – the guitar, piano etc. – are in no way banned by the Church; they are allowed with a strict warning, that if they are played…

“…they are to be played with such seriousness, and religious devotion that every suggestion of raucous secular music is avoided, and the devotion of the faithful is fostered” (Sacred Congragation Of Rites 1958)

Speaking truthfully, most use of secular instrumentation in the Liturgy I am aware of fails to live up to this call. But that does not mean it has to. There’s a particularly gorgeous modern hymn, How Deep the Father’s Love For Us, that I firmly believe can not only meet the requirements of the Church, but also foster a beautiful devotion within the faithful during the Holy Mass. (Obviously a lot depends on how it is played, as is the case with Chant).

The Traditionalist cannot ignore this fact, unless he pick his favorite Church documents and ignores the others. But I’ve lingered too long on the subject of music. Do you see the point? The New Translation gives us a fantastic opportunity to fall madly in love with the Liturgy as it is, not as we’d like it.

Come Advent, we will begin saying goodbye! to the response “and also with you,” and will replace it with the accurate translation “and with your spirit.” In this small translation a great truth is found. We are rejecting what some wanted the Liturgy to be, or thought it would be fine for the Liturgy to be, and are humbling ourselves to accept what the Liturgy is. It is a gift from God.

I’ll be posting on the Liturgy for a good bit after this, in anticipation of the New Translation. Use this renewal within the Church as a time of self-examination, of scrupulously, honestly, and painfully facing the ways we project ourselves onto the Liturgy. And then put an end to them! Now is the time to heal the division within the Church, and move with Her into an age of greater unity. What great work we could do in the world, if we presented to it an unshakeable unity of purpose and mind.

  • Cal-J

    Does Patheos allow you to organize clusters of posts? If it does, I wish to suggest you do so, so it saves us from digging through the backlogs of old posts. Section suggestions: “New Translation Awesome”, “Objective Beauty and the Way to Cure Porn”, “Atheism lol”, etc.

    Thanks again for writing.

    • Anonymous

      it does! i just need to DO IT. so keep bugging me

      • Cal-J

        Bug. Bug. Bug. Bug.

  • http://sociallysacred.blogspot.com David

    I’m a big fan of the new translation, mainly because the change will make people think. I know only 2 years ago I had no idea what the Mass really was and then I met a priest who made an additional vow at his ordination to never say Mass irreverently. That helped open my eyes to see the Mass as more than just a worship service. My prayer is that this translation makes that ‘click’ in other people’s minds as well.

    • Marc

      amen!

  • http://www.hermitofbardstown.com Stephen Taylor

    People keep their agendas no matter what. Logic and common sense do not affect idealogues on either side. As a hermit I stay out of it, go to mass, and don’t care of the rite calls for the priest to stand on his head, so long as mass is said. You want the most ancient and accurate liturgy? Go to the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. Liturgy changes over time, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, but ultimately God is in charge, we are just along for the ride to see where we are being led.

    Good article.

  • Davidcnicoll

    I’m in the Tiber Swim Team class of 2012, so I’m probably the last person qualified to comment – so I will anyway!

    Our church has been using the ‘new’ Mass for a while and I live it.

    I also love the Latin Mass.

    Both done reverently and with style are wonderful prayers, and touch my heart. I’ve also come across poor examples of each which make me cringe.

    As for the “tiff” between the two “sides”, my reaction (for what it is worth) is “Grow up. Rome has spoken.”

    • Marc

      excellent sir!

  • John Goodall

    Scottish person here, so I’ve had the delight of hearing the new translation already, and it really is much better but in a subtle way, i.e. it’s not different in a disorientating way, but rather clearer and more vivid. Small things like “the sacrificial Victim” instead of just “Victim” and “behold the Lamb of God” are just wonderful.

  • Karyn

    I guess one good sign from the “split” is that we argue because we take our Mass so seriously. Sometimes I get so frustrated by some of the happenings at our church because I feel like it greatly detracts from the reverence of the Mass. But I try to focus on the fact that Mass is happening and the rest is most superfluous.

    I don’t know that I’m a traddy or whatever, but I sure would like to attend a Latin Mass, at least once. But the only other Catholic church is an hour’s drive from us.

    • Marc

      the Latin Mass is beautiful. I’m lucky enough to be able to attend it frequently at Franciscan.

  • STAforevah

    Cannot wait for the new translation! And I *really* can’t wait to hear the new translation of the Exsultet this Easter Vigil.

    Keep posting about the liturgy…the new translation’s one of the few things holding me over until Christmas and, even more so, EASTER.

  • http://remnantofremnant.blogspot.com Priest’s wife

    I was at a Roman-rite mass this Sunday (crazy Nutcracker season….but I digress) and I noticed a little confusion with the corrected translation…they are ‘practicing’ the new Gloria and a few other parts in preparation for Advent- there seems to be a certain level of anger for the change—

    I don’t get it- isn’t LATIN the basis for the Roman-rite Mass? How is ‘and also with you’ anywhere near ‘et cum spiritu tuo’ — it is almost like the English language Church has been different than the rest of the world since the NO

    • Cal-J

      That’s because the people in charge of the really sucky translation did their damndest to remove every “holy” and “consecrated” that they could. (If I remember correctly, this was, what, the late sixties)? The people complaining are mostly the translators who haven’t died yet and their disciples.

  • Gabriel Syme

    While I would have to agree that the dichotomy of “traddy v. modernist” is foolish and a waste of valuable energy in the Church; I would have to say that you are wrong when you say that one cannot judge against certain instruments being used in the Mass. To this point I direct you to Pope St. Pius X’s Tra Le Sollecitudini. In this document he makes it clear that musical “bands” are prohibited as well as “frivolous and noisy instruments.”

    “19. The employment of the piano is forbidden in church, as is also that of noisy or frivolous instruments such as drums, cymbals, bells and the like.

    20. It is strictly forbidden to have bands play in church, and only in special cases with the consent of the Ordinary will it be permissible to admit wind instruments, limited in number, judiciously used, and proportioned to the size of the place-provided the composition and accompaniment be written in grave and suitable style, and conform in all respects to that proper to the organ.”

    Rome has spoken, and the Mass needed changing, but it is a tragedy that something which was EXPRESSLY forbidden only 100 years ago has become so commonplace that people now feel they cannot experience Christ’s saving presence without it. I have even heard arguments which say that all rules written before the new Ordinary Form only apply to the Old Mass. However this creates yet another false dichotomy in that it treats the two Masses as if they are entirely separate. This is a lie, Il Papa said it himself! He has reaffirmed that there is not to be two rites, they are all one; a continuation.

    I truly pray for the day when the Mass will be served with the reverence it once new, and the participation and involvement that Vatican II and the Post-conciliar documents ACTUALLY called for!

    • enness

      I will have to read that, but I’m wondering what the context of it was — was it indeed meant to apply to all peoples at all times? I have seen all of the above used tastefully and judiciously. Particularly the piano. Let’s say you have a small church where the organ is not spectacular but the piano is nice, could they justify using the poorer instrument instead? Or say they can’t find somebody who knows how to play it? The organ is really a different animal and fewer people learn it. Would their only option be to sing completely acapella, which is a difficult thing even for trained professionals?

      Why is it that Mozart seems to be the gold standard among “Trads,” too? Do they not think his music sounded anything like the popular music of the day, albeit better? He wasn’t stupid…he needed to feed his kids.

      And why does our new Gloria that we just practiced the other day sound so alike in style to the old Gloria, only with a melody that seems stuck in a range of four notes? I couldn’t see who the composer was, it was evidently cut off by the copy machine.

      I’m okay with the new translation but as a musician I have a WHOLE lot of questions!

      • Miss Doyle

        I think the litmus test should be – is this the best we’ve got? God deserves the best of what we have, and too often in the past it’s been crap, and too hard for everyone to sing.
        I’ve been there, I’ve sat through ‘liturgical singing’ classes and it was mediocre to this 7 year old’s ears.
        Not only were the melodies confusing and the words infantile, but it blew community singing out of the water.
        The worst of it is, many parishes continue to use John Denver-esque music in the hope that more ‘young people’ will come. Um no. It didn’t happen in the 1970′s, and it sure as hell won’t happen now.

      • Gabriel Syme

        Mozart shouldn’t be a “gold standard” Gregorian Chant should be. Church documents tell us that sacred music should be judged based on how well it matches the Chant. But to continue on the issue of Mozart; I think you’re missing the clear difference between Mozart’s Mass settings and contemporary religious music. The main difference here is that Mozart wrote Mass settings, music made specifically for the Mass using the text of the Missal, not just songs with religious motifs; that is why “trads” tend to have an affinity for Mozart. It’s not as if tradys want to put his operas into use for the Sacred Liturgy.

        As for the new melodies; they are the way they will be from Advent on because they now match the Latin Chant melodies. This was done on purpose so that priests/cantors could use the Latin equivalents more easily, without confusing the congregation.

      • GrumpyGrampy

        Ennes, having gone through about 25+ new and revised settings last year, I’m not sure which setting to which you refer. If, OTOH, you’re speaking of the ICEL chant setting, with its narrow tessitura and its obvious resemblance to the “old Gloria,” then your director is simply acknowledging no small reality attached to the implementation of MR3. The ICEL “Glory” is essentially Missa XV from the Graduale Romanum, the English text set under the oversight of Fr. A.W.Ruff, when he supervised all of the massive amounts of cantillated text for the 3rd edition. This “Missal Chant Ordinary” has been mandated to be the default setting for all hardbound or subscription missals/aides, and is largely an amended version of the still extant “Jubilate Deo” Latin setting compiled under the impetus of Paul VI, and which has pretty much been learned here and there, but mostly ignored for two generations. Even chant enthusiasts and no small amount of clerics decry its association with the Sanctus/Agnus Dei from the Requiem by dubbing it “The Death Mass,” which I personally find disingenuous and repugnant. I digress.
        Chanting the ICEL Glory can be done with great beauty and alacrity if the cantor/schola keeps an inherent momentum in the singing. And there’s always the availability of a number of fine organ accompaniments.
        But, you could also be speaking of another Mass setting, so…..

    • Cal-J

      I’ve heard the piano and flute played well together. My problem is when we get the tambourine and the rainstick.

  • http://thelibrarianontherun.tumblr.com Librarian on the Run

    “so break out the mandolin, we gone have a FOLK MASS!” – Oh my – I could not stop LAUGHING OUT LOUD. I remember those days. My old childhood parish used to do that once a month. But I love what you had to say!

  • Rmgleason

    Oftentimes it is not the rite I object to, it is the deviation from the rite in numerous ways by the priests celebrating the Mass. I am happy in either Catholic rite…just stick to the rubrics and quit making it up on your own as you go!

  • AnneMarie Hauge

    “We should never seek to ‘put things into’ the Mass, for the Mass is a gift. We receive it. We conform to it, it does not conform to us, nor to our age.”~~Brilliant point; I like it! As one of those former “anti-P&W, Traddy all the way” Catholics, I appreciate this post a lot! I am continually finding that as CATHOLICS we are called to be UNIVERSAL–its not about divisions, its about unity. Its not charismatic OR traditionalist, but charismatic AND traditionalist-not everyone is called to be a super charismatic person, but the respect for both tradition & reverence (especially in the Liturgy) AND charismaticness must be present!

    • Jay E.

      I was happy to see this comment. Being charismatic and being traditionalist aren’t incompatible, if we seek to conform ourselves to what it truly means to be charismatic and truly be traditional.

  • Paula

    As a student and lover of Latin for the past ten years (and now a teacher, too!), I have to say, Latin in the Mass is a stumbling block for me. I have no idea what’s going on and, even worse, I am hindered from active participation in the Mass (and the Catechism tells me that: “Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy, and to which the Christian people, “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people,” have a right and an obligation by reason of their Baptism.”). So all these cantors displaying their lovely voices in Latin are fine and dandy for a show, but it’s a totally *passive, unconscious* experience to listen to them (and, to boot, in a language we don’t understand) for those of us in the congregation. Also, Latin, let’s face it, is the language of a pagan, slave-owning, violent civilization. It was adopted into use by the early Church because it was the lingua franca of the age but not because there’s anything particularly sacred about it. Moreover, I think the Holy Spirit made it *abundantly* clear at Pentecost when He gave the apostles the gift of speaking in tongues (i.e. to speak to each person in his native language) that is it *not* sacrilegious to preach the Good News in the vernacular. In fact, as far as I see it, the Holy Spirit *wants* us to do precisely that. So why is there such an insistence on the reverent place of the Latin Mass? The same gift of the Spirit, I think, may apply to musical styles appropriate for the Mass — naturally one doesn’t want the Mass to become a show (whether it be a too elaborate organ performance or a praise & worship rock band), but music is also a tool for communication, just as language is. Therefore, should not “vernacular” music (i.e. songs people actually know how to sing like “I Am the Bread of Life”, a song which literally just quotes the Bread of Life Discourse and which has been tragically removed from my church’s new hymnal) be encouraged in the Mass since it may be a channel whereby the Holy Spirit can reach more people and thus give them a means to more active participation in the Mass?

    As for the new translation, I’ve been waiting on it for years — ever since I noticed that the Mass in Bolivia, said in Spanish, made more sense. Speaking of making sense, though, does anyone know whether the English “Our Father” will be getting an make-over? The line “Lead us not into temptation” has always bothered me… why on earth would the Lord lead us into temptation to begin with such that we should have to ask him not to do so? The Spanish makes much more sense: “do not let us fall into temptation”. I wouldn’t mind seeing that change along with the new Liturgy.

    • Miss Doyle

      I can see how you might find the EF Mass ‘passive’ Paula, but there are 2 active choices someone has to make before attending. The first is to be a passive onlooker. The second, is to pick up a missal and PRAY the Mass along with the priest.
      The wonderful thing about people who choose to attend the EF now is that they (unlike generations before them) actually do make that second choice.

      Part of the attraction for me (and I go to both EF and OF), is that I am the one choosing to participate. No-one (either a ‘commentator’ or the priest) is putting on something in order to grab my attention. It’s MY decision which makes my actual participation real – my intention, and my physical attitude. Every single worshipper makes that personal choice. It’s an interior change, and the Mass becomes my Mass too, one that I actually offer along with the priest. You don’t get that same sense in the EF – but the new translation has made it a little clearer (in the Roman Canon, it’s now – “…we offer you this sacrifice of praise or they offer it for themselves”…

      I’ve always found the OF ‘easier’ in a sense to follow, because everything is made easy. There’s relatively little effort required. I turn up, I listen, I stand, I sit, I kneel – but there isn’t the same availability of a personal response. There aren’t many times of silence for me to redirect my thoughts and intentions etc…
      It’s actually become something I’ve had to work on, I need a little more time to prepare to attend Mass in the OF, and I need more time afterwards.

      That’s my experience anyway, and in saying it, I don’t in anyway place one above the other. They are both valid, both beautiful, but both need a different approach for the worshipper.

      • Miss Doyle

        Sorry, when I say 2 choices, I mean one or the other. Not both!

      • wineinthewater

        “Part of the attraction for me (and I go to both EF and OF), is that I am the one choosing to participate.”

        The thing is, that isn’t exclusive to the EF. If it is more common in EF liturgies, then that reveals a problem.

  • Post Vatican II

    Oooohhh, the liturgy nazis in my diocese won’t like you. They’ve been taking up a quarter of the editorial page of our diocese newspaper explaining each new line for months. We are all supposed to fall in line and hate the previous translation that I have used for most of my life. If we want the “True Liturgy” I suggest we all learn Aramaic and hold Mass in our homes, just like the early Christians…

  • Zmeckley

    “The New Translation gives us a fantastic opportunity to fall madly in love with the Liturgy as it is, not as we’d like it.”
    This is dead on. In romantic relationships, in our relationship with Christ and His Blessed Mother, in the study of the natural world, in the study of philosophic truth and artistic beauty, we must demand honesty from oursleves. We must seek to discover what and how God and His creations ARE, not blinded by the our desire for them to be as we want them to be.
    This is such an awesome blog.

  • Jay E.

    Speaking as the only Traddy Charismatic I personally know of (I still don’t get why these two things are supposed to be so fundamentally opposed… or opposed at all…), this is a topic that is very near to my heart (alas). You present some powerful points, but… I fear that no amount of argumentation is ultimately going to solve the problem (though it might help a tad… maybe… like shouting “shut up!!!!” in the midst of a shouting Mass might help people shut up…. or just add to the raucous). But maybe that’s just my pessimist side coming through. Already just glancing through some of these comments…. It’s a rather touchy issue, in which everyone has their own opinion, and will stubbornly refuse to listen to the other side.

    In any case, as you say, we need to unite around the gift of the liturgy. It’s really easy, summed up perfectly by the slogan of Fr. John Zuhlsdorf: Say the black, do the red.

    I’m glad you’re doing more posts on the liturgy. Deo gratias for the new translation.

  • Lily

    My only problem with the new translation (and not with the actual translation itself) is that, in my parish at least, they keep using the old music for the Gloria and sort of cram the new words in without caring what it sounds like. And it sounds awkward and crunchy and awful. I’m just hoping someone will write a new tune that actually fits the new translation properly.

    • http://www.theroad2emmaus.blogspot.com Jeremy

      The only problem I have with the new translation is that in the Apostle’s Creed, we will now say that Christ “descended into hell.” Sure, it’s a more accurate translation of the Latin, but I think it’s just going to confuse people. At my parish, we say the Nicene Creed so this confusion will never crop up, but in most other parishes I’ve attended (I live in Vancouver, Canada), the Apostle’s Creed is said – don’t ask me why…might have to do with our Conference of Bishops or something. I mean c’mon, we only have 2 holy days of obligation…

      Every other bit of the new translation, I find extremely awesome.

      • Rose

        That isn’t new, at least as far as I know. I heard a few years ago of a movement to switch to “descended to the dead” but that it went back to “descended into hell” pretty quickly.

  • Dominic1955

    “Active participation” is a bad translation of “actuoso participatio” which would be better translated as “actual participation”. It has much more to do with an internal prayerful disposition and intention.

    The Latin used in the liturgy was not the “lingua franca” at the time. It was highly stylized. Same with the Greek in some of the Eastern liturgies, it wasn’t the vernacular Greek at all. From Dom Gueranger to Fr. Uwe Lang (and many before and after), it has been made pretty clear that there is such a thing as a sacred language and Latin is ours in the Roman Rite.

    Mass is not a didactic experience it is the divine cultus. Preaching was always done in the vernacular but the Mass is not about communication between the priest and people. It is more useful to think about the Old Testament Temple worship or the earlier time when the altar was completely blocked from view by curtains, rood screens, the iconostasis etc.

    If we really just wanted to accept the liturgy as it is, as a gift from God and not subject to our own preferences and whatnot, we should never have messed with it in the first place. The traditional Roman Rite extends back to the the mists of the Apostolic era, as do the traditional Eastern Rites and other ancient diocesan usages. There has always been development but what happened in 1969 was a complete change. What we have now in the Novus Ordo is in the same spirit of the Neo-Gallican Rites of 18th Century France-valid, certainly, but completely made up.

    Finally, what is valuable in recent times is the opening up of the discussion and debate about the liturgy. We’ve made valuable strides towards getting to the truth of the matter, and to try to squelch that will just force the argument we need to have back underneath the surface where it will just fester all the more. We now have a chance to lance this boil and get to the truth of the matter, we need to seize this opportunity!

    • Paula

      Dear Dominic,

      Latin being the lingua franca has nothing to do with style (whether it be high or vulgar) and everything to do with being the language most people in Mediterranean world would have understood at the time. It was the “common tongue” like English is now (I admit, Greek was also a lingua franca of sorts in the Eastern part of the empire, though, since Rome owned Greece, Latin still trumps Greek as the most well-known language of the time).

      I do appreciate the clarification with “actuoso participatio” (although is it “actuoso participatione”? or “actuosa participatio”? otherwise the Latin doesn’t make sense…).

      • Paula

        sorry, first one should have read “actuosa participatione”

  • http://twitter.com/QDefenestration Rob

    Wondering what your thoughts are on adding seemingly innocuous things to the liturgy that are not proscribed, such as holding hands during the Our Father.

    • Marc

      While in and of themselves there’s little problem, they contribute to our current mindset that ‘the liturgy is what we make it.’ Therefore, don’t do them.

  • Benjamin Baxter

    Why does everyone assume Traditional-minded Catholics are all Archie Bunkers? In my opinion, proportionally and absolutely speaking, there are a lot fewer Archie Bunkers in the Latin Mass communities than there are Meatheads among the Modern Mass. There are some, but as Papa put it before he was Pope:

    “While there are many motives that might have led a great number of people to seek a refuge in the traditional liturgy, the chief one is that they find the dignity of the sacred preserved there.”

  • Jenna

    This reminds me a lot of your post about art where you said that the point is that it is is only good if it it’s goodness is not debatable. But nothing human is undeniably perfect. Everything has their flaws in differing degrees. And I think that we should be looking at music the same we we look at art. It is not to bring glory to the artist It is not to confuse the public. It must have a purpose. That much is clear. I agree with that. But there is a huge difference between saying that and saying eveybody has to like it. I found that last peice you showed very moving, even if it wasn’t traditional. In fact, I hate a lot of traditional peices. I think they’re hideous. But I certainly don’t go around telling people that they can’t like them. I respect that people have opinions. Mass is not a time to talk about them, yes, but if they don’t want to stare at that cruxifux bring a hand held-one. The point is to think about the scene. Not to talk about the beauty of the depiction. Let people have their opinions on art. There is not reason to attack them, even when you’re not in Mass. Just focus on the scene, and if you agree with it, the beauty that God inspired in the artist.

    Also, saying that “every suggestion of raucous secular music is avoided” just doesn’t make sense to me. I’m not saying to rap in church, well mostly because I don’t like rap, but also because it is distracting. But what is wrong with bringing in guitars and a drumset for the closing song? There is music for a reason, and if there is a style of music that will get people to sing and is not harming anyone, I think that’s great. Not that I’m saying people shouldn’t be more focused on what they’re sayng than the rythym of it, but I know that it is much easier for me to sing songs with basic melodies and the like. I am a singer. I have been for most of my life. I still have absolutely no idea how to sing Gregorian chant. And I can’t translate the Latin quickly enough that I know what I’m saying. I like English songs. I like English prayers, though ocassionally I’ll reicte Latin in my head. I like modern music that is easy to learn much more than music from hymnals that I have to sightread to. And I think that if the music is not distracting, we should be able to sing it. It doesn’t matter when it was written. I want music whereI can focus on what I’m saying, not the difficult rythem. And if it’s beutiful and simple, all the better. Give glory for the inspiration the artist had in writing it.

    As for the new liturgy, I don’t see that much difference. Being a nerd I appreciate that the translation is better. But I do like that we’ve been discussing the meaning of the words. I feel like many people, myself included, can find it easy to just say the words they know and let their mind wander. Making us focus not only on the new words but also what they mean is a great idea.

    • Marc

      I sais no such thing! Art is only beautiful if it fulfills STA’s requirement of claritas, clarity and conveyance, true, and so a meaningless structure is, well, meaningless. But I don’t believe it’s goodness must not be debatable. I’d venture to guess that all great art has been debated over in regards to its goodness. And I’m also not saying the everyone has to like certain styles of music. And I think I made it absolutely clear that there’s no inherent value in a piece being ‘traditional’, Of course there are hideous traditional pieces! So I’m with you!

      My only disagreement is on the point of obedience. You say that Rome’s words don’t make sense to you, and I understand that they may not. But what does it mean to be Catholic? To follow the Catholic Church. What is that the Catholic Church saying? Avoid raccous secular music. What should the Catholic do? Obey. Same with giving Gregorian chant pride of place. Though you not may agree – as there are many things i have disagreed on – obey the Church. Then you’ll probably find why the Church is saying what she says.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Maggie-Rochester/100001442771378 Maggie Rochester

    BAHAHA! I am part of the “Organ-or-death!” group! Oh I love this, rock on Marc!

  • wineinthewater

    Music is a contentious topic. And I’ll say something that is probably pretty contentious:

    I have found that when it comes to music in American Catholic churches, the music more often detracts from the liturgy than contributes to it.

    The fact that music *is* so contentious is, to me, is a clear indicator that musicians have become far too dominant in the liturgy.

  • John Gerardi

    I think you’re kinda setting up a straw man traditionalist in order to put yourself in the middle of the debate, when really you’re pretty solidly within the “conservative” side. I’ve never met anyone in the ultra-conservative musical wing of the Church who was ONLY in favor of Gregorian chant to the exclusion of traditional hymnody, sacred polyphony, the great orchestral Masses, worthy hymnody from the Protestant/Anglican tradition, modern composers of serious church music (like MacMillan), etc. I think the only people who are ONLY in favor of chant/old hymns would either be 1. super-duper-radical traditionalist laity who are totally ignorant about music, and 2. Benedictine monks within their own monasteries, and only because their liturgical apostolate is different from that of the regular parish.

    PS: I don’t think chant-only Benedictine monks are “ignoring the liturgy,” nor do I think any TLM group/parish or Reform-of-the-Reform Novus Ordo parish that only uses chant is “ignoring the liturgy.” To use the music that Holy Mother Church has recommended to us for more than a millenium, which she holds to have pride of place, is not “ignoring” anything. I don’t think those groups do this because they hate other truly worthy forms of music. They are simply doing something that simple parishes and great cathedrals the world over did for centuries before the council–giving Gregorian chant its pride of place.

    Furthermore, there are reasons why we super-traditionalists think guitars and pianos are best if not used in the liturgy at all: there are almost NO examples of their use in the liturgy prior to the council, and (as you point out) almost no WORTHY examples of their use after it. Why wade through a sea of guitar-and-piano muck to find one flower when you can just stroll through the meadow of Gregorian chant?

    The nature of these instruments is also different from that of the organ; guitars and pianos are stringed instruments that are struck with some sort of percussive movement. The organ is favored by the Church because of the nature it shares with (what the Church holds to be) the ultimate musical instrument, the human voice: they are both wind instruments that are capable of a magnificent variety of tone, range, blending, and volume.

    So look, I’m open to listening to something liturgical that employs the guitar or the piano worthily. Lay it on me. However, after 19 years as a Catholic, I’ve yet to hear an example of it in a church. Thus, I don’t mind advocating the John Belushi strategy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvR6d08L3nc

    • Marc

      oh i wish it was a strawman, man.
      But you’re absolutely right — most do not promote Gregorian chant in exclusion of polyphony etc. I’ll make sure to be clearer on that.

  • Athelstane

    “Now, following the example of our beloved, peace-making Pope, is the time to lay down our factional weapons and learn what it is to be Catholic. ”

    Marc, has it occurred to you that we’re fighting over very real differences here – differences worth fighting for?

    • Marc

      Absolutely! The question is whether we are fighting as a “faction” (I am a traditional Catholic!) or as CATHOLICS obeying our Church.


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