Oh Happy Day! Catholic Music gets saved!

The rather prissy and disapproving tone of this article aside, one can only leap for joy to read that the pope has finally spoken out about the travesty that is Catholic Music in the 21st century. I am not kidding when I said that this past weekend I listened to a guitarist and a barely-competant keyboardist plunk away and howl and I prayed, “please, God in heaven, make it stop, make it stop!”

Bad contemporary music was one of the spoiled fruits of the Second Vatican Council. Told by the council to intersperse more modern sounds into the mass while maintaining traditional chant and polyphony, boomer liturgists threw out every great piece of music and brought in the dreck. I recall those days. I remember what it was like to go from singing a great hymn of adoration one week to singing “Blowin’ in the Wind” the next. These days, most modern Catholic music is all about us, us, us and how great we are because we worship God (God is allowed to get mentioned now and then, but no illusions to gender must prevail…).

The Second Vatican Council was not a bad thing in and of itself, but my goodness, it was implimented so poorly, taught so badly, that Catholics heads began to spin and forty years later some of us are still trying to explain that “meatless Fridays” were always about sacrifice, not hot dogs, and that VCII, while instructing us to move away from the exclusive fixation on meat, did not well explain its meaning. The church wanted us to remain mindful, to continue to commemorate the sacrifice of Christ on Good Friday by performing our own willing sacrifice on Fridays…riding a bike instead of driving, not eating chocolate, fasting completely, doing someone a good turn. That got lost in the “bologna on Friday” headlines and the George Carlin routines about “some guy doing eternity in hell on a meat rap!” Not the media’s fault, either. It’s the fault of the church that so much was lost, so much was so poorly communicated. And we’re going to pay for the horrendous catechesis of our kids for many decades to come, too.

Meanwhile, some in this article have their noses out of joint.

But Cardinal Carlo Furno, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, said it was “better to have guitars on the altar and rock and roll Masses than empty churches”. The use of modern music was a “sign of the vitality of the faith”.

The suggestion is that because Benedict is a classical music lover, he’s insisting on better music for church. Maybe it has nothing to do with that. Maybe he simply realizes that – naysayers aside – guitars and drums and cringe-inducing music have not “filled the pews” or created a better, more fruitful and holy worship. The faith is plenty vital in those places where 2000 years of tradition are allowed have some breathing room with all of these gosh-golly-so-great innovations of the last 40 years.

Now if we can get the pope to say something about liturgists who think the Palm Sunday liturgy – exquisite for all of these years – is better served by an amaturish pantomime troupe wearing red turtlenecks and greasepaint.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • igout

    My wife’s Catholic; I’d be a tradionalist Anglican if there was a church nearby. I tag along to Mass with her, and always leave depressed.
    Lord knows, we’ve had our disputes with the Romish Church, but we never denied it was one class act. Now I know better. I hope your Pope can banish the musak and bring back the spookiness.
    Just one well-wisher’s opinion.
    Hope you’re feeling better, Anchoress.

  • igout

    My wife’s Catholic; I’d be a tradionalist Anglican if there was a church nearby. I tag along to Mass with her, and always leave depressed.
    Lord knows, we’ve had our disputes with the Romish Church, but we never denied it was one class act. Now I know better. I hope your Pope can banish the musak and bring back the spookiness.
    Just one well-wisher’s opinion.
    Hope you’re feeling better, Anchoress.

  • kelleyb

    One Sunday the choir began to croak an incredibly awful thing at the end of Mass. I realized that my private thoughts were not so silent when the folks in front of me turned and shot me a death ray. My laughing hubby took my arm and led me out before I “thought” something else.

  • kelleyb

    One Sunday the choir began to croak an incredibly awful thing at the end of Mass. I realized that my private thoughts were not so silent when the folks in front of me turned and shot me a death ray. My laughing hubby took my arm and led me out before I “thought” something else.

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/emperoraf andy

    Protestants are leaving “seeker friendly churchs” because of this. I’m neither a traditionalist nor a contemporarist,(?) simply someone who wants to praise God and meditate upon his word. That can be facilitated by both styles as long as it is done prayerfully and in respect to history.

    (Colleen Carroll Campbell has a very good book on the subject. I am curious as if you’ve read it.)

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/emperoraf andy

    Protestants are leaving “seeker friendly churchs” because of this. I’m neither a traditionalist nor a contemporarist,(?) simply someone who wants to praise God and meditate upon his word. That can be facilitated by both styles as long as it is done prayerfully and in respect to history.

    (Colleen Carroll Campbell has a very good book on the subject. I am curious as if you’ve read it.)

  • ForNow

    I’m not religious but some years ago I went to a friend’s daughters Catholic confirmation. I couldn’t believe it. At the front sat a woman playing a badly tuned 12-string guitar and singing badly too, and some boring song. Couldn’t she have at least tuned her guitar right?

  • ForNow

    I’m not religious but some years ago I went to a friend’s daughters Catholic confirmation. I couldn’t believe it. At the front sat a woman playing a badly tuned 12-string guitar and singing badly too, and some boring song. Couldn’t she have at least tuned her guitar right?

  • TheAnchoress

    She probably thought she had tuned the guitar right. Many Catholic musicians are quaking in their boots right now because they know they CAN’T PLAY the good music. Really, you have no idea how abysmal the situation has been.

  • TheAnchoress

    She probably thought she had tuned the guitar right. Many Catholic musicians are quaking in their boots right now because they know they CAN’T PLAY the good music. Really, you have no idea how abysmal the situation has been.

  • http://truthhope.net kipwatson

    Well, I dunno. I’m in two minds about this one.

    I wish I could go down to church and hear Gabrielli and Palestrina, but who’s going to do it? That stuff’s hard!

    The worship band at church do a very passable U2-esque Christian rock, and the Holy Spirit is always present, so they must be doing something right…

  • http://truthhope.net kipwatson

    Well, I dunno. I’m in two minds about this one.

    I wish I could go down to church and hear Gabrielli and Palestrina, but who’s going to do it? That stuff’s hard!

    The worship band at church do a very passable U2-esque Christian rock, and the Holy Spirit is always present, so they must be doing something right…


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