Guest blogger Norman Anderson is married to Marjorie and is a Catholic father of high schoolers Kevin, Marybelle and Hazel. He works as a claims adjuster at Skinner’s Insurance Incorporated. He attends St Martha’s Catholic Church in Adam’s Falls, North Carolina. Norman is a suburban hermit.

Marjorie has joined a group at St Martha’s which is called “the Welcome Committee.” One of the things the welcome committee members do is to welcome people who come to St Martha’s. Father Randy gives the names of new families to Marjorie and her friends. It is then their job to arrange a home visit with the new family. I am sure this is a very good idea, but it is not something I would appreciate. I would suspect that the welcoming committee were really making friends with me in order to obtain money. I would also find it difficult to conduct a conversation with strangers.

I find strangers always think they must ask me questions about myself. Perhaps they have learned this from a book which instructs you how to ‘establish rapport’.  But they don’t realize that I do not wish to talk about myself nor do I wish to establish rapport with them. I do not mean to be unkind, but I have found that establishing rapport is often rather exhausting and I am very happy not to have rapport. At work Jeannine sometimes makes it a point of engaging me in conversation. When I prove to be somewhat taciturn she says cheerfully, “I’m just trying to establish rapport Normal.” She calls me “Normal” rather than “Norman.” She finds this amusing and I am happy if she does so. She has many burdens in her life so a bit of levity may make things easier for her.

Once at work we had a training day and a woman with a business suit and a short haircut asked us to sit across from another person and tell them about ourselves. Then we had to introduce that person to the rest of the group. I happened to be paired with Jeannine. I was reluctant to tell her much about myself because there is not really very much to say, so I fabricated a story and said that I had been brought up by missionaries in Papua New Guinea and had run away from home at the age of sixteen and made it back to America to live with my grandmother who was a palm reader in West Palm Beach. I worried later that I may have told a lie, but I prefer to think of it as a kind of storytelling. I have not had the courage to tell Jeannine the truth since then. I thought when I mentioned the “palm reader” in “Palm Beach” Jeannine may have caught on that I was being satirical, but she did not.

I asked Marjorie if it was the case that the welcoming committee were really interested in getting people to give money to St Martha’s, and she blushed and said this was not the reason. However, later she admitted that Barbara Cotton, who is one of the members of the welcome committee is also on Father Randy’s stewardship committee. It was Janice who stood up after Mass one Sunday and told us that we should use our “time, talent and treasure” more wisely for the Lord. I have always thought that they are not really very concerned about time and talent, but these are ways to talk about money without being embarrassed. However, I am always embarrassed for them because I know what they really want, but they are too afraid to say so.

Barbara Cotton is very involved in church and likes Father Randy very much. One of her gifts is leading the singing. She welcomes people to church very warmly each Sunday and often sings a song at the time when Holy Communion is administered which is about Eagles Wings. I have never understood the song  and am always reminded of the scene in Lord of the Rings where the magician Gandalf is carried away by eagles, but I am sure that is not what the song is about. When Barbara Cotton leads the singing she often lifts up her arms and the fleshy part of the upper arm wobbles a good deal in time to the music. I am sorry to say that this often distracts me from my prayers.

I am not afraid to talk about money, and if Barbara Cotton asked me to I would stand up in church and tell everyone that they should tithe, which means giving ten percent of their income to the church. I have always tithed because I have found it to be a pleasing way to get rid of all the money they keep paying me. I can’t really think of anything else to spend it on, and it seems unwise to save too much or invest it as one only loses out when the stock market crashes. It seems better to me not to have much to start with then you won’t be saddened when you lose it all.

Marjorie finds this annoying because she is somewhat acquisitive at times but it is a little thing I insist on.

In fact, I have recently thought of giving 20% of my salary to the church, but I do not approve of the way Father Randy would spend it. He is very fond of well fitted suits and nice cars and I have heard that he has a flat screen television in every room of the rectory even though he lives there alone. My friend Jean Pierre says that Father Randy wears a toupee and has a holiday home at the beach, but I try not to listen to such stories. However I  am curious about the hairpiece. Marjorie says if I don’t want the money I should give it to the children, but that seems a bad idea because it would spoil them. She thinks this is unkind, but I do not see it that way.

I explained to her that it was similar to her welcome committee giving people donuts after Mass. They might start coming to Mass for the donuts and not for the worship of God. Marjorie said I was being quite ridiculous but I am firm in the opinion that donuts after Mass does more harm than good.

Instead of giving the money to Father Randy I spent it on myself. I found a very nice small electric heater at the hardware store and have fitted into the room in the treehouse. Now the weather is starting to get colder it is very snug in the treehouse. I have had the idea of living up there for most of the winter and I would do this except that the family members would find it unusual and they might be the focus of some joking at school if anyone would find out.

At dinner with friends the other night the conversation turned to the traditionalists with a fair bit of sympathy. Along with the obnoxious voices of the radical traditionalists there are many good Catholics who simply feel let down by their church leadership.

They may be willing to put up with a liturgy they don’t like and music that they find shallow and they may be willing to endure sentimental or politically correct homilies, but they see a deeper malaise in the church and don’t know what to do about it.It’s like they are looking at a beautiful garden over run with weeds and they don’t know where to start or what to do to restore the garden.

A heartfelt comment in yesterday’s combox expresses the anger and loss many traditionalist Catholics feel at the corruption and liberalism in the church:

 I find myself grateful for your comments about being too critical and how it can cause more division in the Church. I also come back to a question, how do we confront the corruption, and there is much of it along side many good people, that are tearing apart the community of the Church? Do we simply say, well God will take care of it at the end of time? Some times this is the only possibility. Yet, as I watched Michael Voris’ Mic’d up regarding the systematic squashing of his ministry from those unnamed people that run dioceses, all I can say is I have seen it first hand. I have seen one really fine energetic Catholic after another, priests and laity, that have been silenced into oblivion for simply teaching the faith with clarity. I will tell you I have never seen someone who teaches absolute falsehood regarding the faith so treated. How is that? What do we call this except a corrupt system? I wont even mention what it took to uncover the sexual abuse that had been covered up for so many years and the seemingly intentional blaming it on pedophiles rather than homosexual relations with post pubescent children and priests (this is not pedophilia, yet we keep calling it that). Why? Do we just remain silent, or only talk behind closed doors to keep things from going public and we keep a good face? How does one go about this and have some good affect? I to have watched good Catholic people become so angry at the corruption that they no longer have much peace of heart and seem to be holier than thou, as you said. This is no good either. So maybe you can give us more insight into these questions and inconsistencies.

Let’s consider the options: you start protesting. You speak out against corruption, liberalism and indifference. What happens? You will be marginalized as divisive, angry and self righteous. Remember, the people you are fighting are just as convinced of the rightness of their way of doing things as you are of yours. They not only like the banal hymns, the shallow homilies and the feel good liturgies, but they believe them to be the best way forward for the church. Is there scandal and corruption? Those who are trying to fix the problem will not thank you for angry protests.

Furthermore, should you engage in angry protest you will be rejected and excluded from the conversation. This will make you more angry and bitter and before long you will develop a martyr’s complex, and if you’re not careful you will spend all your time licking your wounds and berating your enemies and you may well drift further and further into schism and even heresy yourself.

Let us compare Martin Luther and St Francis. Both were passionate Christians during a time of corruption, indifference and worldliness in the church. Luther began to protest. Many of his complaints were justified. He wanted a pure church–one untainted by what he perceived as heresy and scandal. The protest ended up as Protestantism and the result of that was war, rebellion, sectarianism and five hundred years of strife.

St Francis, on the other hand, heard the words of Christ “re-build my church” and he began to do so with his bare hands. When his order was under attack from the authorities as being sectarian and heretical he went and stood barefoot in the snow until he was able to have an audience with Pope Innocent. In other words, St Francis became a saint. That’s how he confronted the scandal and corruption in the church–by showing the world what it truly looks like to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

So how does one confront the corruption, heresy, indifference and scandal in the church? Be a radical disciple. With a joyful heart begin re-building the church right where you are. Serve the Lord with gladness with the gifts he has given you. Do you dislike the music in church? Join the choir. Form a chant group to sing at one of the masses. Offer to pay the salary for a new organist and choir director. Get involved in the parish council. Sponsor a parish mission with a dynamic speaker. Get to know and love your pastor. Overwhelm him with joyful and loyal service. Find out what he needs and deliver it. Soon you will be his confidante and friend.

Do the same at the diocesan level. Get to know the people involved. They are not the enemy. They are your brothers and sisters even if you disagree. If they have a pet cause or mission get involved and help to make it work. When the church is riddled with scandal and corruption fight it by identifying others who are trying to weather the storm and bring good out of the mess. Support them with your prayers, your giving and your friendship.

Do the same at the national and international level. Find the religious orders, apostolates and ministries that are doing good and support them. Every year I go to the Catholic Leadership Conference and meet over a hundred committed, on fire laypeople who are running a whole range of wonderful apostolates that help the poor, spread Catholic devotions, foster strong spirituality, engage in the political debate and seek to evangelize and share the faith. Get to know these groups. Support them with your friendship, your enthusiasm, your zeal and your dollars. Join in with the people who are changing the church in a positive way. Roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty and get to work.

The more you get involved in the groups that are doing wonderful work in the church the more you will be filled with joy in being a Catholic. The corruption, scandal and heresy will fade away like shadows. You will see clearly what you should be doing and it will be positive, life filled and life giving. You will soon see all the good that is going on and the bad you see will fade in importance.

Finally, remember this, we are engaged in a spiritual battle. Why did you think that the church would be free from corruption, scandal, indifference and heresy? It has always been like this and it always will be. Read church history. The complainers and protesters never accomplished very much. The saints did. The saints confronted corruption with radiant lives of simplicity and power. They skewered scandal with radiant lives of purity and goodness. They overwhelmed indifference with radiant lives of zeal and joy. At times they spoke out against the scandal, indifference and corruption, but they always did so based on the authority of their own powerful sanctity.

In other words, overwhelm the world with the light, life and beauty of Christ alive in you.

Don’t curse the dark.

Set alight a life ablaze with glory and goodness.

Joanne McPortland compares this effort to the righting of the Costa Concordia – go here

Three timely books are available which diagnose the problem of the American Church and the solution to the problem. Russell Shaw’s American Church – The Remarkable Rise, Meteoric Fall and Uncertain Future of Catholicism in America brilliantly presents the history of the problem and the present day crisis. In his usual easy going and personable style, Shaw re-tells the history of the Catholic Church in the United States. The Catholic Church had grown enormously through the 1800s as waves of immigrants arrived. By turn of the century the waves of Catholic immigrants were being assimilated into the United States. One of the towering figures of the establishment of the time was James Cardinal Gibbons. Friends with Teddy Roosevelt and every high ranking figure. He epitomized the easy drive for Catholicism to emerge as the predominant Christian entity in the burgeoning United States. Shaw charts the rise of Americanism–that heresy which blamed separation of church and state in the US as leading to a dangerous individualism, indifferentism and disregard for church authority. Two ways emerged within American catholicism: the liberal trend away from Rome and towards increasing acceptance of American values and principles and the conservative trend which was critical of American values in favor of total allegiance to the faith.

Shaw points out that the divide still exists within the American church. He quotes Catholic academic Jay Dolan who believes the Catholic faith fits in well with America and complements American values, then he counters with a quote from Cardinal George who says, “While the church in  the United States enjoys a certain institutional freedom, she exists in a culture that, in often surprising ways, resists Catholicism.” Many would agree with the Catholic priest Shaw quotes who says, “There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between Catholics and their fellow Americans now in moral outlook or religious practice.”

The statistics are grim. Half of American Catholics voted for the most aggressively pro abortion presidential candidate the country has ever seen. On any given Sunday only 30% of American Catholic turn up for Mass. Three out of four Catholics go to confession only once a year if that. Numbers for church weddings, baptisms, confirmations and ordinations are all drastically down, down, down.

After re-telling the history of the church in America and the debates about the proper relationship of Catholics to their new country, Shaw tells how the immigrants moved out of the ghetto and were assimilated into the American mainstream. Through the rest of the twentieth century Catholics rushed to embrace every aspect of being American, and Shaw tells how, especially in the 1960s and 70s this led to widespread dissent. The battle was going to the side of the Americanists. The liberals weren’t going to take orders from Rome, and the American way seemed the best way. Shaw goes on to quote the statistics and make his point.

The point is that the American Catholic Church is more American than Catholic. American Catholics, having left their immigrant cultures behind have now woven their Catholic faith fully into the American experience. Visit the typical American Catholic parish and you will find not so much a universal, ancient and venerable religion–but a big auditorium with wall wall carpet, scary muzak more than sacred music, the homily is likely to be a bland mix of Oprah Winfrey self help advice and feel good sentimentality. In short, going to church in America is just another consumer experience designed to make you feel good about yourself and about America.

Shaw’s book is an excellent short, accessible and punchy history. He  knows how to tell a good story without getting bogged down in pedantic details. He also analyzes the present situation with sharp criticism and pulls no punches in his conclusions. The book is big on assessing the problem, but disappointing when it comes to solutions. He speaks of the need for reform and the need for the Catholic Church to get its act together and do something, but he doesn’t seem too sure just what.

George Weigel presents the solution. Its Evangelical Catholicism. His important book, Evangelical Catholicism–Deep Reform in the Twentieth Century Church tells us very clearly that the real problem is at the very heart of the American Church–that Catholics need to be converted. They need not just religion, but a change of heart, a total commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ and a real relationship with the living Lord.

Dedicated to our own Fr Jay Scott Newman–pastor of St Mary’s here in Greenville, George’s book is more theological than political. He traces the problems not just to Americanism, but to the dominance in Catholic self understanding of the Counter Reformation church. Weigel characterizes the counter Reformation church as being hierarchical and pyramidal in structure. The Pope was at the top and everything flowed downward from him. The church was rich in devotional practices, commitment to the sacraments, and thorough in catechesis. To put it bluntly, the church was run by the clergy. The saints were the heroes. The laity were like peasants–meant to pray, pay and obey.

Weigel rightly assesses that the time is right to move on. Evangelical Catholicism is from the ground up, not from the top down. The criteria is for individual sanctity, individual commitment to Christ and a profound encounter at the individual level with Jesus Christ the Lord and his message. Weigel then goes on and outlines what that reform looks like at the Episcopal level, the level of the priesthood, the liturgy, religious life, laity, the church’s intellectual life and the church’ involvement with public policy.

What I find so interesting about Weigel’s thesis is that many of his ideas were already the ideas and ideals of the 1960s modernists. His call for individual conversion and for the driving force in the church to be Spirit empowered individuals is the essence of the second Vatican Council. What happened after the council, however, is that the “Spirit of Vatican II” took over and the move away from the institutionalized, clericalized Counter Reformation church took us into the Protestantized, wall to wall carpeted, schmaltzy AmChurch we have today. This is because the call for individual conversion, for spirituality and the “encounter with Christ” was cut off from the traditions, doctrine and devotions of the church. The 1960s modernists took the easy way and mistook iconoclasm for reform. Instead of bringing about true conversion of heart and intentional disciples, they just found it easier to destroy the old rather than build something new.

The Radical reform Weigel calls for holds in one hand the need for individual conversion, radical discipleship, fervent work for the disadvantaged and holds in the other hand traditional liturgy, strong Biblical preaching, a strong and positive teaching on Catholic moral values, acute intellectual accomplishment and a re-vitalization of the Evangelization effort. Weigel is the author of the best biography of Bl. John Paul II and he clearly sees the JPII generation as the only vital and powerful way forward for the church. I agree.

Weigel’s explanation  of Evangelical Catholicism shows it to be the only positive way for the American Church. If Weigel’s vision were fulfilled we would have a church that was strong and firm in its Catholic identity and witness, powerful and involved in the nation’s political debate and moral questions, leading in a renewal of liturgy, art, architecture and music, and taking a strong intellectual stance in the church’s educational establishments. The only alternative is the continued drift of the American church either into a bad Catholic version of the suburban mega church or a retreat into ultra traditionalism–which is a kind of sad admission of defeat and a retreat into a liturgical and cultural ghetto.

Shaw shows the problem. Weigel expounds the solution from an intellectual perspective. Sherry Weddell takes the call for reform even further in her very important book, Forming Intentional Disciples–The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus Weddell is the founder and director of the Catherine of Siena Institute. She and her colleagues have criss crossed the country leading parish retreats and seminars seeking to enliven the faith and “convert Catholics to Catholicism”. She is passionate about helping Catholics encounter Christ and she writes clearly and concisely about what that means and how to do it.

Weddell echoes the grim data that Shaw and Weigel chronicle–falling Mass attendance, Catholics leaving the Church for Protestant  churches, and a general “disengagement” from the life of the parish. She points out what I have experienced, that many Catholics leave not because they were leaving Christ, but because they became closer to him, but their fellow Catholics–including the clergy didn’t know what they were talking about or didn’t want to know.

She asks a question I have pondered time and again, “How many of the parishioners have truly met Christ and decided to follow him with their whole being?” These Catholics she calls “intentional disciples”, and she reckons that only about 5% of Catholics can be described as such. Even worse, many of the clergy, church leaders and administrators are among the 95% who are followers of Christ in this way.

Weddell gives the grim report from here experiences:

“As we listened to the spiritual experiences of tens of thousands of Catholics, we began to grasp that many, if not a majority of, Catholics don’t know what ‘normal’ Christianity looks like. I believe that one reason for this is the selective silence about the call to discipleship that pervades many parishes. Catholics have come to regard it as normal and deeply Catholic to not talk about the first journey – their relationship with God – except in confession or spiritual direction. This attitude is so pervasive in Catholic communities that we have started to call it the culture of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.'”

Sherry explains a brilliant process by which a person has this encounter with Christ and a good part of the book explains this process and how to help individuals move through it. The ‘thresholds’ on the path to discipleship are:

1. Trust – in which a person comes to trust other Christians enough to engage in conversation about their spiritual life
2. Curiosity – a beginning open mindedness towards the possibility of faith
3. Openness – a genuine open heart and open mind
4. Seeking – genuine search for the truth
5. Intentional Discipleship – commitment.

Sherry says that this open conversation about the spiritual life and Christian commitment needs to be an expected part of our church life together.

“Until discipleship and conversion become a normative part of parish life, many [people] will walk in and out of our parishes untouched, and many Catholics who are disciples will continue to feel that they need to hide or minimize their newly awakened personal faith in front of other Catholics…The Catholic norm of silence about a relationship with God, about Jesus Christ and his story, about our own stories of following Christ, and about the need for everyone to decide whether or not he or she will follow as a disciple is stifling the emergence of a culture of discipleship and all that flows from it.

It is this “culture of discipleship” that Weigel would also endorse as the keystone to Evangelical Catholicism and one which Shaw would recognize as the key answer to the desperate problems of the American Church.

I cannot recommend this serendipitous trilogy of books enough. The three books have come on the scene at precisely the right time for the church. Along with the election of Pope Francis, the Spirit has led these three authors to produce books very much needed in the life of the Church.

Buy copies. Study them. Share them with your friends. I have read all three. The first two provide the necessary theory. The third I will read and re-read and share with my staff in order to set our priorities and get to work.

A friend of mine used to quip, “When you’re talking about Christian music it’s pretty safe to substitute ‘bad’ for ‘Christian’.

Who hasn’t had to endure a Christian rock band or sit through a worship with some aging trendy strumming a guitar and inflicting folk music or light rock on everyone?

Why is it that so often Christian music is so awful? I think there are a couple of reasons. The first is that the musicians and their audience mistake a worthy message for talent. Then they get a martyr complex if they’re criticized. “You’re obviously not very spiritual if you can’t enjoy my music!  The second problem is that the audience are often either totally uncritical or they haven’t the ability to criticize intelligently. Too often the audience actually like the crap that is being dished up. The third factor is that market forces are usually not in play. Market forces often have a surprisingly sharp and salutary critical effect. Market forces weed out the junk, but in the Christian market they’re doing it for love, not money, so no one is telling them to get off the stage ’cause it won’t sell.

These are all the practical problems. There is, however, a deeper problem. Christian popular music is almost always pretty bad, but  the problem with most “Christian” music is that it is secular music with Christian words. In any decent art style and substance are supposed to match up. The meaning and the media are supposed to harmonize.

Most “Christian” music is taken from the secular world. Whether it is the music of Broadway musicals, Country Western, Las Vegas ballad crooners or light rock or heavy rock and roll it’s secular not sacred. When you then add sacred words to the secular music there is a natural disconnect. That’s why so much Christian music (even when it is well written and well performed) doesn’t really work. Oh sure, people might like it. They might even have nice feelings about Jesus by listening to it, but the secular music was designed to produce certain types of feelings, and why should those warm sentimental feelings or hard emotional feelings be linked with worship?

We might like listening to Christian country Western or a sweet Broadway type ballad about Jeezus or we might get all hyped up listening to Christian rock, but is it worship? Is it really inspiring us to draw closer to God? Is it really deepening our spiritual life or is it just music we like which makes us feel good and it makes us feel even better because it talks about Jeezus too? Forgive me for being cynical, but think about it. The worst example is Christian Rock music. At the risk of sounding too puritanical, rock and roll music was, from the beginning highly sexualized, laden with rebellious, heavy and nasty rhythms linked with the drug culture–designed to alter consciousness and demolish self restraint. The acid rock and heavy rock was also obviously linked with an occult and demonic sub culture.

So you want to put cozy Christian words to all that? To my mind that’s like putting a gospel tract inside a porn magazine.

The same criticism applies when the musical style is not quite so bad as acid rock. You name the popular secular style–the music wasn’t written to deepen prayer, lead to worship or open the soul to the sacred. It was designed to produce shallow emotions about love and romance at best, and lust and sex at worst. Pope Benedict XVI comments on this in his book The Spirit of the Liturgy. He acknowledges that down through the ages this has been a recurring problem in the church. Sometimes the hymn writers put Christian words to beer drinking songs. At other times they adopted the popular operatic style. Now they adopt light rock, hard rock, and virtually every other secular style.

The antidote is to be more aware and appreciative of sacred music. There is a kind of music that on its own–even without words–is designed to open the mind and heart to the sacred. Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony which evolved from it–is the music of worship. Especially in the liturgy this is the music which we are supposed to use because the music lends itself to worship. It opens the heart and mind to a new dimension and reveals the spiritual aspect to our lives in a way that secular music with Christian words does not. That’s what sacred music is. What is required is catechesis about this music and an effort to appreciate it. Truly sacred music is an acquired taste. It takes some effort. It also takes some effort to produce it at a good and worthy level.

The problem in most mainstream Catholic parishes is that they’ve had nothing but crap music in church for as long as anyone can remember. The people actually think its okay because they have never heard anything else. They take on board the blend of muzak, Broadway tunes, folk music and light rock thinking that this is all there is. Then if they ever do hear Gregorian chant or sacred polyphony they hold their ears and say, “Geesh, why does Father want to bring in all that gloomy music? We’re outta here.” Alas. Its true.

Does this mean that Christians should listen to nothing but Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony? Is that all we should ever use in the liturgy? The purists would say so. But I’m of the opinion that we have to work with what we’ve got. We have to meet people where they are and move on from there. Chant and polyphony are the foundations of the music we should use. In addition to this we have the library  of sacred hymns (and there’s enough there to warrant another blog post completely) the worthy ones of which will serve to complement the words and actions of the sacred liturgy.

If that doesn’t please you–I guess you can always enjoy Jesus is My Friend…

Guest blogger Mantilla Amontillado is the founder of Veritas Vestments. She holds a degree in Ecclesiastical Haberdashery from Salamanca University. She has done the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella three times on horseback and is engaged to the famous matador, Senor Augusto Torquemada.

Okay hon. Sorry I not been writing here for such a long time, but I been really pretty busy with my business Veritas Vestments you know? So I am making a trip to America to see some people who maybe want to buy my range of fashion birettas and I have a good time, but let me tell you something hon. The Catholic churches there are not too great you know?

In Spain maybe we get used to having these beautiful old churches. They have been there for maybe a thousand years and maybe they are part of the scenery you know? That’s a hill. There’s a church. Same thing. But in America the churches that are new are not so good. Sometime they look like a teepee or maybe one that I see looks like a ice cream cone that has fallen upside down on the floor.

So, I go into this church and it has carpeting on the floor and the seats all have cushions on them and they don’t have no kneelers in them. When Mass starts up they have low lights sometimes and bright lights and big sound machines. People are singing into the microphones like we are at some kind of pop music concert. Then I notice Father is not preaching a homily after the gospel. He come down among the people like somebody you see on TV being real friendly and smiling too much. I think maybe he is going to say “Let’s make a deal!” or “Hey, Maybe you win a trip to Disneyland this week at Mass!” or “Hey, this week we are going to have a talent show!”

Everything is like a theater or something like that, and this one priest he has a mustache and his hair is combed so you can’t see he is maybe a little bald and he is smiling all the time. He make me feel creepy and I remember Augusto say you should never trust a priest who has a mustache. Anyway hon, I have been to some concerts,  and let me tell you, this is not a very good concert.

At the side there is this woman who is somebody’s Madre. She nice big woman who should be sitting there maybe praying her rosary and being quiet, but she is waving her arms around and trying to make everybody sing. Her arms and other stuff is wobbling around. Let me tell you hon, it’s not so good. This place needs Mantilla to get it into shape.

So I am thinking about this, and you know what the problem is? I think maybe the church is too comfortable. In the winter the church is real warm and in the summer it is very cold. All of this is too comfortable. I think it’s better when the floor is cold stone and the seats are hard wood and maybe that will keep people awake more.

So I thinking about this some more and I remember what Monsignor Quixote say. He say the problem is people think the church is a place to meet each other and hear a homily. He say they think it is their house, so they make it like a living room. But it’s not their house. It’s God’s house. You know what I mean hon? They should stop for a minute. The church is not just a nice place for them to come and hear music. That is what the Protestants do. A Catholic church is a temple. It’s God’s house. He lives there in the tabernacle and what we do is we go to see him and worship him and pray there.

Maybe if these Americans think of this first they would spend more money on making their church beautiful and less money on making it comfortable, and then maybe they would also think again about the music they play there. If they are thinking this is God’s house they would say, “You know what? Maybe God doesn’t like to hear this kind of music you might hear at a barn dance or a pop concert.” And maybe the priest will stop being such a show off man.

I am telling Augusto this and he say to me, “If they want to see a man show off let them come and see me do the bullfighting.” I remember Monsignor Quixote saying to us once, “The priest–he should be like the invisible man. All wrapped up in Jesus so people see Jesus and not him.”

You know what I mean hon?

John Zmirak rants here about the sappy, dreary hymns sung in so many Catholic churches.

What he doesn’t get into (because he’s too busy being witty) is the reason for such excruciatingly bad Catholic music. The reason is (with apologies to the Holy Father) the dictatorship of sentimentality.

Catholics in English speaking countries (and maybe everywhere else for all I know) have drifted into sentimentality because they are too afraid of embracing the full blooded, supernatural, dogmatic religion we call Catholicism, and the rot began with the clergy who came out of seminary full of the modernistic critical theories about the Scriptures and the faith.

They couldn’t believe that sort of thing in the modern age, so they concocted another gospel which was all about being friends with Jesus and hanging up felt banners with words on them, and making the world a better place and the church a happy fellowship sort of group therapy session.

The music is a bad dream, but when you consider that the music matches the theology the nightmare is even worse.

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