What's wrong with "Praise and Worship" music?

What's wrong with "Praise and Worship" music? June 2, 2011

One priest offers his perspective on the music many teenagers hear at youth liturgies:

Will the kids today who are raised on a diet of Praise and Worship continue to practice the Faith when they are no longer of that age middle-aged people in the Church want to cater to? I don’t know.

But my experience has brought me to reflect on why Praise and Worship Music is not appropriate for the liturgy:

1. P&W music assumes that praise is worship.
All of us are called to lift our hearts, minds and voices to God in prayer. A particular type of prayer is praise, when we recognize God’s goodness, holiness and mercy by our own actions of praise. Praise has always been accompanied by music. Praise has always been something that takes place on an individual or small group level. It is often spontaneous and takes the form of culturally relevant symbols and forms. Praise is something common to all Christians and to many other religions.

Worship is indeed a type of praise, and music is an integral part of it. But the sacred liturgy is the public prayer of the Church, a corporate worship by which baptized Catholics enter into a Mystery which is not of their making. Being a corporate action, it is governed by law and tradition so as to preserve its unity throughout the world and its fidelity to the Message revealed by God. Worship is a Christian act of the baptized gathered by bonds of communion with the visible institutional Church.

P&W music actually identifies worship with praise, by grafting the freer and more individualistic nature of praise onto the communal prayer of the Church’s worship.

2. P&W music assumes that worship is principally something we do.
Martin Luther defined the Mass as a sacrifice of praise. It is something we render to God. The Council of Trent solemnly defined against Luther that the Mass is a true sacrifice. The Mass is the re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Christ to His Father on Calvary in the Holy Spirit. The Mass is something that Jesus does, the Redemption, the fruits of which are shared with us in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Worship is not Praise, but Sacrifice and Sacrament. Worship is something that Jesus Christ brings about in us through His self-offering to the Father.

P&W music reduces the Mass to a sacrifice of praise that we offer to God. Even when P&W proponents assent to the teaching of the Church on the Mass, it is as an abstract truth of faith. In the concrete, our sacrifice of praise is grafted onto that Sacrifice of Redemption. It overlooks the fact that it is the Sacrifice of Redemption that is the highest Praise to the Trinity, and that our participation in it is not by what we do, but by who we are as baptized Christians in the life of grace.

3. P&W music assumes as its first principle relevance.

P&W recognizes that music is important in the Church’s worship. But it also posits that music must “reach people where they are.” It must be relevant to those who hear it. Relevance, however, is an ambiguous notion. What is relevant to me may not be relevant to someone else, and so P&W introduces into the liturgy an element of subjectivism based on human concerns.

Often P&W is directed at an ostensibly missionary effort. The idea is that, if people find the music at Mass attractive or relevant, they might be brought into a deeper relationship with God. Yet, faith is a gift that comes from God, not from us. P&W attempts to clear the way for divine action, as if relevance could accomplish that.

There’s much more.  Read on.

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40 responses to “What's wrong with "Praise and Worship" music?”

  1. I completely agree. The whole “youth Mass” phenomenon is so bereft of the community coming together to hear the Word and receive the Body and Blood of Christ. The praise and worship music that I have heard is so vertical, almost a private expression of praise and devotion in a communal setting, rather than the community expression and experience of the Mass.

    It isn’t just teens that are affected…there are some movements in the Church (such as ACTS) that use the same sort of music. Yes, they do bring people into the Church, but under false pretenses, I think. When they learn that not all parishes, or even individual Masses at their own parishes don’t use the P&W style, they often are disappointed and confused.

    The new translation of the Missal, with the change in wording, will eliminate some of the worst examples of musical settings of the responses, but I fear that, without good catechesis of the people in the assembly, the teens and those adults used to the P&W style will not choose to fully, actively, and consciously participate.

  2. I think I’m going to stir up a hornet’s nest here !

    First off, all of my secular career has been on a college campus; first as faculty and then as administration. I have been an active member of CCMA — including as an author for their journal CROSSROADS — since I have been ordained. I am vitally interested in the faith as our young people incorporate it and make it their own. Even now, in retirement from my secular career, I still teach “Introduction to Ethics” at our local community college thus bringing a different spin on what our faith challenges really are — and killing a lot of stereotypes and caricatures along the way.

    I mention all of this because I remain a big fan of Praise and Worship music. I have seen the lives it changes and have literally been in tears at the passion and enthusiasm our young people have for their faith and its liturgies.

    Where the difficulty comes is when our young people return to their local parishes and do not find that same sense of passion. It makes no sense to them that one can claim faith and belief in the Risen Lord Jesus and sit almost “inert” — refusing to even follow what the presider is doing.

    In other words, our young adults acceptance and love of Praise and Worship Roman Catholicism is not an end in itself — it is symptomatic of a very different view of what Roman Catholicism is all about. Their Catholicism, in their minds, demands of them that sense of passion. This is something quite challenging to their parents’ generation — particularly if those same parents are members of old-time German nationality parishes where everything has to be “alles ordnung.”

    Are their parishes out there that accept that enthusiasm and let it blossom? Sure are! But more likely in suburbia and not likely in their own hometowns.

  3. I went to a “Praise and Worship” mass a few years ago. The worship leaders and musicians were middle aged people in their late forties up to their sixties. They had of course huge prompter screens in the church for the lyrics. Some of them were wearing sandals.

    The kids were bored, had that glassy eye expression that only teens can perfect. They couldn’t care less for “On Eagle Wings” or “I want so see you Lord” than for a Mozart sonata. They were there because their parents made them. It was phony, contrived and ridiculous, most of all the older guys pretending to be hip and cool with kids music that was their music when they were young.

    Pop American music will perish in a few years. Chant will stay here for another thousand.

  4. Deacon Norb — I agree with every point you made, especially about the experience of returning to the local parish. I remember it well.

  5. I think there needs to be different styles for different personalities. I am the inert type. I commune best with God in stillness and silence. There is nothing that will shut down my communion with God faster than a P&W or a Pentecostal style Mass. I accept that there are people just the opposite of me and others who can go either way.

    I’m glad that we have different Masses in my parish that have their own “personality” so to speak. I have found the one that best suits me and I attend it faithfully.

  6. Amen, momor. I, too, prefer more traditional music but know many people for whom P&W is inspirational. Unless the Vatican comes out and condemns it, it seems to me that Fr. Smith could be doing many other things that would be more productive for himself and the Church than writing long treatises that attack other Catholics’ valid worship preferences.

  7. Praise worship is not a “valid choice” in the context of the Mass. It is perhaps when used outside the liturgy.

  8. I agree with Momor and Patrick, we need to have different styles for differen people. I prefer the more traditional hymns, but a lot of other people don’t. In our choir we try to mix it up and not do just one thing. I realize a lot more chant is being very energetically pushed as of Advent of this year, and we will need to gear up for it. Honestly nobody has approached the musicians in our parish and begged for more chant, but maybe “if we build it they will come.” If my adult children are any indication, it’s going to go over like a dose of cod liver oil.

  9. This was a fantastic piece. I especially liked points 7 and 8.

    I guess I found it ironic what he said about Luther, though. It is true that Luther had a different theology of the Eucharist. But Lutheran liturgy and the Lutheran hymnody is very much a response to the liturgical year as well, and I’m quite certain that Luther would have found ‘Shout to the Lord, all the earth, let us sing’, along with other songs of this ilk, rather…uh, well, I suppose given Luther’s way with words, it wouldn’t make it through the censors here. 🙂 Willow Creek is hardly Luther’s progeny. At the very least, my confessional Lutheran friends are rather appalled by such stuff.

    Deacon Norb, you make some interesting and valid points. However, Willow Creek is not the answer to alles ordung parishes (and I know that you weren’t saying that it was). At the very least, I bet dollars to doughnuts that not a single man of the current ordination class was inspired to join the priesthood because of their experiences at a praise service. I could be wrong, though.

  10. Long-time (pre-beliefnet) lurker, here.

    I recently finished grad school, and I’d like to know why P&W music is foisted upon college-aged people. I couldn’t stand going to the parish closest to me because of it. (It catered to the college crowd, being close by.) At the next-closest parish, there were a lot of college students from the same school who felt the same way.

    I think what I object to with it is the influence of pop (and its association with consumerist culture) and the fact that much of it is bad music. What we bring to the Liturgy should be the absolute best we’re capable of, and the P&W music I’ve heard (even in recordings) is truly awful.

    I”m far from a Traditionalist, but P&W should not be used at the Mass.

  11. As a Catholic in his mid thirties who attended Mass through his teens and twenties, I find P&W a huge distraction AT MASS. (It is fine outisde the liturgy itself.) Growing up we had it at the 5 pm and 10 am at my home parish. (The older I got, when I was living at home or visiting, I conveniently avoided those Masses!)
    Some of the tunes their words are ingrained in my brain and I have a soft spot for them But, when I think of the lyrics now, I find them vacuous.
    P&W is about feeling mellow. People regard it as “good” music only becase of sentimental value. And, although they may promote an ambiguous Christianity at best, the words of the P&W music rarely if ever convey the truths of the Catholic faith.
    P&W rarely reflects the entrance and communion antiphons.
    The argument that P&W will draw in youth is lame. Youth do not like that type of music. When young, I did not go to Mass to sing hymns. I went and still go to worship my God who becomes present on the altar in a miraculous way. I go to receive His grace and receive Him Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity if I am properly disposed.
    We should sing the words of the Mass: (the Glory to God, Holy Holy, etc.) The priest should sing his prayers and the other parts of the rite itself. The deacon should chant the Gospel.
    We should chant THE Mass (in English), not some P&W hymns at Mass.

  12. This is a topic of much interest to me. I am a guitar player and the spouse of a music director. I have been playing and singing at Mass for close to 30 years, as well as “doing the music” at retreats, Cursillos, etc. I have been taught that the Mass is perfect, and that we are privileged to be allowed to even be in the same space when it is offered. I am dismayed at the contentious state of affairs in liturgical music. I admit that much of what is in characterized as “Praise and Worship” is lightweight stuff. If liturgical music were food, some of those songs would be Cocoa Puffs — sweet, tasty, nutritionally deficient, and ultimately a poor choice. I especially get upset at singing songs I’ve seen characterized as “Vox Dei,” where I get to play God, e.g. “You Are Mine.” Sure, it’s scripturally based, but in liturgical music I’m more comfortable saying “we” than “I” and certainly loathe to put words in God’s mouth. I hope and pray that the upcoming revisions to the liturgy will inspire someone to create a synthesis of ancient and modern, of chant and contemporary musical vocabulary, that will draw us all closer to each other in prayer at the Eucharist, and closer to God.

  13. I think comments 11, 12, 13 are from the Millennials growing up. The other comments are probably from Baby Boomers like me. Guess who lies P&W? The Bommers. Who is attracted to more traditional worship? The new generation.

  14. Deacon Norb –

    I think you have touched upon part of the problem. Perhaps what happens is that the youth get so accustomed to the entertainment (“what does it do for ME”), that what is actually happening in the liturgy is lost on them. (For everyone, I highly recommend, “What Happens At Mass” by Father Jeremy Driscoll, OSB – small and inexpensive!) When they head back to their non-P&W Masses, they don’t get it and are “bored.” Boy, if they only knew what they were missing! We need to catechize, catechize, catechize!

  15. Catholicism is the “both/and” faith. If I wanted an “either/or” faith I’d pick some version of Protestantism.

    I must say, after “reading the whole thing”, that I don’t know what “Praise & Worship” music is. I do know that Fr. Smith doesn’t like it. I suppose I could take the attitude that “Praise & Worship” music is anything I don’t like, and then apply his smug little Rorschach test to my own prejudices and be as smug as he. Or I could let my disgust with his nasty little smugness cause me to define “Praise & Worship” music as Ave Verum and Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring and be confirmed that Fr. Smith is an idiot.

    Oh, and RGB, On Eagle’s Wings is 32 years old, and a reasonably straightforward translation of Psalm 91. And, jaykay, the use of God speaking in the first person — including the disconcerting shift of point of view 2/3 of the way in — is part of the psalm, too.

  16. OKay, so for those who haven’t seen me here, young man, late twenties. I never got exposed to P&W/CCMA until recently by going with two youth ministry friends last november to this P&W rock concert held by children of a few Indian families together. It’s All4Him. THey were featured in 2009 in the Catholic Register (Toronto Diocese) Here:


    https://www.facebook.com/all4himworship –> facebook page

    Personally, I don’t go crazy, but don’t mind these things outside the Mass. It might be a good “supplement” especially for youth to see a band like this, composed of Youth actually being happy and singing about their faith in Christ.

    However, I am against this AS A MASS/IN THE MASS, for some reasons:
    1) I am in aggrement with what Deacon Norb says, in this day of “cheap entertainment” and “what’s in it for me?” it will take away from the liturgy and turn it into a rock concert.
    2) Furthermore, speaking of rock concerts, I feel like it would be simiar to those evangelical mega-churches. Examples of this can be found in the Vince Vaughn/Reese Whitherspoon movie Four Christmases, and in the indie documentary “Jesus Camp” after the kids return from camp. Kids/youth might mistakenly think if they know of these churches, and/or if they have friends of other Christian sects they can get the same of what is in the Catholic Church there.
    3) Some of the songs/ song lyrics that are used are from general Christian sects or have been “protestantized” to the point it can contain general theological abberancies, or can reduce members of the Trinity or our feelings towards them to “goody-goody feelings”. Certain one’s are ok like “Here I am to worship” but others aren’t and to one not firm in faith or an uncareful ear, who knows what may happen.

    Diakonia – You are right about that! In fact I just went with 2 friends from my Compass chapter/youth ministry to our first Latin Mass last Saturday. Oh man it was something, even for a Low mass and worthwhile.

  17. I’m with the Deacon Norbites on this one.

    P&W music has offered me a way to feel my faith in a way that comes naturally to some but never really has to me, and I really appreciate it for that reason. But it is not the only way of expressing praise any more than Gregorian chant is the only way.

    I think it’s worth noting that the author of the piece Deacon Greg offers here is writing in The Chant Cafe, a project of The Church Music Association of America (founded in 1874)…

    “…an association of Catholic musicians, and those who have a special interest in music and liturgy, active in advancing Gregorian chant, Renaissance polyphony, and other forms of sacred music, including new composition, for liturgical use.”

    So I don’t expect we’ll be seeing them flock to the Charismatic Conference in Steubenville any time soon.

    I think you’re right cathyf, it is both/and. There was a church person a couple of years ago who was asked for a comment by someone doing a report on Mel Gibson and his father’s traditionalist Catholic views, and his response was “The Church is a large and wonderful tree in which many colourful birds make their nests.”

    I think that within necessary and reasonable boundaries which most would support, and having a clear understanding that there is a difference between prayer and performance, the same holds for music.

    God bless.

  18. As a side note, I’ve never taken “praise and worship” to presume that they are one and the same — just that there will be some praise, and there will be some worship. So that point seems a little like scoring points off an imagined opponent.

  19. I’ve been a youth minister working with junior high and high school Catholic teens since 1996…I’ve been to several World Youth Day events internationally, worked with parish and Diocesan retreats in several different dioceses and I have found that when upbeat, contemporary Catholic praise and worship music is offered as equal to upbeat traditional or other types of Catholic liturgical music it is enormously preferred by youth. I don’t care if you believe it or not- they like positive music that they can sing that rhymes, is easy to remember without a missal and they can sway to or do hand motions to as they worship God AT MASS.
    Youth do prefer a guitar and piano to organ music. They do like music that incorporates a few traditions like a little Latin in a contemporary way- like Matt Maher’s Tantum Ergo, Angus Dei or Kyrie, but they like something in their key, easy to sing, easy to remember and catchy. Praise and Worship from Chris Tomlin, DCB, Matt Maher, Third Day and such fills that need.

  20. DcnDon, I like that quote “The Church is a large and wonderful tree in which many colourful birds make their nests.” It would be a pretty boring place if we were all the same.

  21. Why are the ‘mega-churches” (i.e. Lakewood in Houston) doing so well?

    Positive atmosphere.

    Enough said.

  22. I think the author of the article has an agenda (maybe he does not like the style of contemporary music?) but to say that the Mass is not an act of praise and worship is just crazy. Just read the words of the Mass…..from the Gloria, (we worship you, praise you glorify you), listen to the dialogue and prefaces (it is right to give you thanks and praise), the start of the first canon “we come to you Father with praise and thanksgiving.” We can go on and on and then there are endless quotes from the early fathers and papal documents. Before the consecration of the chalice “ Again he gave you thanks and praise..” it has not been called the Eucharist (thanksgiving) for nothing! And it is good to remember that the word orthodox means one who give real/true glory (as in doxology…giving glory).

    Now what best musical ways express this glory and praise…..there is room for discussion. Just look at the differences of the papal masses of Blessed Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict 16…..one same Mass but very different styles.

  23. “Catholicism is the “both/and” faith. If I wanted an “either/or” faith I’d pick some version of Protestantism.”

    Well said, cathyf.

    There also has to be a constant self examination. My parish, a traditional German congregation, merged with a contemporary, P&W, demonstrative, hands in the air community a number of years ago. I sang traditional music and learned and love(ed)the P&W music…and the demonstrativeness and truly felt the Holy Spirit. But there was a point where I found myself “performing” for the congregation and immediately quit the contemporary group. As a result of my explaining why I had to leave, others left also. The group still exists and does a great job but it’s not the same as it once was…more toned down.
    The point I’m not doing a very good job in making is that our parish has thrived (still after almost 10 years the fastest growing parish in our diocese) simply because we cater to the traditionalists AND the contemporaries.
    Praise and Worship and Catechesis is an AMAZING combination. You don’t have to agree or even like it, but I here to tell you…IT WORKS.

    Peace to all

  24. sorry one last quote ( i am still in shock that someone really thinks that the Mass is not true worship and praise)

    “Suscipiat Dominus sacrificium de manibus tuis ad laudem et gloriam nominis sui, ad utilitatem quoque nostram totius que Ecclesiae suae sanctae.”

    May the Lord receive this sacrifice from your hands to the PRAISE AND GLORY OF HIS NAME, for our good and the good of all his holy church.

  25. What does the Bible tells us to do…?

    Psalm 150
    Praise the LORD!
    Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty firmament!
    Praise him for his mighty deeds;
    praise him according to his exceeding greatness!
    Praise him with trumpet sound;
    praise him with lute and harp!
    Praise him with timbrel and dance;
    praise him with strings and pipe!
    Praise him with sounding cymbals;
    praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
    Let everything that breathes praise the LORD!
    Praise the LORD!

  26. Here’s a true story — the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

    During the Korean War, a fourth parish — St. Zachary’s — was formed in a growing suburb of a medium sized city in the Midwest. There were three other parishes already in existence there but they were all “old-school” nationality based parishes — the newest of which had been founded before World War I in the Ellis Island East European crush.

    St. Zachary’s parish community was what you would expect of many of those in new suburbia: maybe 3,000 head count, a parish elementary school, six-seven times more baptisms than funerals. One pastor complained that his congregants were all “new-rich”; mortgaged to the hilt but very stingy in their offerings in the collection plate.

    Their physical plant, however, was very contemporary — for that time — and they totally renovated their sanctuary sometime in the last decade to that very popular semi-circular/sloping architectural style using lots of natural wood and stone.

    My story now starts. It was about three years ago in Fall 2008. In a meeting of a cross-parish collaborative planning committee, a deacon assigned to one of the other three parishes asked that the group study creating a Community-wide Sunday Evening Contemporary Worship style Mass. Everyone accepted that studying this was probably a good idea and off he went to get some reports and insights.

    A meeting or two later, he gave his report: (1) There was no city within 40 miles in any direction that had a Sunday Evening Mass of any type much less a Contemporary Liturgy; (2) Those parishes farther away who did have a Sunday Evening Contemporary Liturgy were divided — some went with the “Life-Teen” model for high-school students and only had that contemporary celebration during the school year — others created it on their own, had a much wider spread on the ages of their congregations and kept the celebrations going year round.

    This whole idea quickly fell apart when it became obvious that the only church architecturally suitable for a contemporary style worship was St. Zachary’s and their pastoral team wanted nothing to do with it — for financial reasons. You see, their pastor realized that with four masses on a weekend already, he could easily move one of his morning masses to the evening but that would probably mean a decline in envelopes and money because he would be trading a “profitable” mass (with lots of adult envelope holders) for one which would not be.

    The deacon at the other parish had to put his idea on hold but it was resurrected — oddly enough — at his own parish. In the course of a Pastoral Council self-study to set goals for 2011-12, the council surfaced an issue about how to get more youth/young adult involvement in the life of the parish. Several Pastoral Council members agreed to each interview a dozen or so high school/college aged folks and the results were rather unanimous.

    They wanted contemporary music; they wanted contemporary and relevant preaching; they wanted to be warmly welcomed as the future of the church in that city.

    NOW: it is hard to say where this is going — but that Pastor and that Pastoral Council received a major “Ah Ha!” experience here.

  27. Alright I pose some questions to you all who favour the contemporary P&W music and such: In speaking to those youth, how many of them even have any knolwedge at all about traditional music? Do any of them know of of traditional Church music, or even previous secular styles of “classical” or “non-contemporary” music for that matter (i.e. Classical, Baroque, 1920’s Jazz, Bebop 1940’s Jazz, True Rhythm and Blues, soul) vs the pop stuff they listen to every day on their radio stations?
    Perhaps it’s their lack of experience and musical knowledge that leads them to say so. Just what if they were exposed to say Gregorian Chant, or even those example earlier secular styles of music I mentioned. You think they would say the same that they want P&W/contemporary music?

  28. Young Canadian,

    Agreed. They need to be exposed to both (right cathyf?) I know many youts (sorry I kicked into Joe Pescci mode) who LOVE Gregorian chant and are very, very good at the traditional hymns.

    One of the problems I see here is the same as we experienced at the parish. Those who hated traditional music would not join the traditional choir. So how about this. CRANK UP THE JAMS…take those traditional relics and boost the tempo, change the time signiture. leave the words alone, but breathe new life into the music…SING THEM LIKE THE WORDS MEAN SOMETHING TO YOU…that goes with any song.
    My prime example is the dirge “Where Charity and Love Prevail”. Traditionally it makes me want to slit my wrists, lay down, and have someone cover me with dirt….no one EVER sings it with charity OR love.
    But on the other side Hyfrodol (Alleluia, Sing to Jesus) is a fabulous traditional hymn. The idea is not to perform the music from the outside in but to perform the music from the inside out.
    I think I’m done for now……..

    Peace to all

  29. While I have my tastes in liturgy, I do think it shouldn’t be a zero sum game. I think both sides of the current liturgical debate can–and should–examine what common ground they hold. What’s right for one parish isn’t right for another.

    I recently moved to a different part of the country, away from a parish I loved. I’ve been in kind of a nomadic state trying to find a parish I really identify with since then. ONe of the parishes was more the P&W style, and I instantly knew it wasn’t my cup of tea. But I can’t deny that it wasn’t a vibrant community. I’m glad that parish exists, even though I know I wouldn’t be able to go there.

    I’m really worried for the whole “us vs. them” polarization happening in the Church today. I think that, more than any other political or social issue, is what’s going to hurt the Church, and it’s a problem of our own making.

  30. Should we not be striving for the perfect liturgy? The Church’s musical documents…Every. Last. One….say that Gregorian Chant deserves pride of place in the Liturgy and that it is “Most suited” for the Roman Rite. Pope after pope after pope after pope has sung the praises of Gregorian Chant, pleading with bishops, priests, and music directors to return it to the place of pride that every papal, curial, and other authoritative document has demanded.

    With that in mind, why should we not be singing Gregorian Chant at our Masses? Why is this even an issue? Because of our selfish culture…the smoke of Satan. As I read over the comments, everyone who states they like or are OK with “praise and worship” music say that it is “inspirational” to those who like it, or that it works with some “personalities”. This is at the heart of the problem with the Post Vatican II reforms. Not the reform of the rites, but the reorientation of the focus…Newsflash folks: It doesn’t matter what you feel. It is not about you (I know…something isn’t about you….hard to believe). The Holy Father recently said that the liturgy is not someTHING that is ours to manipulate….rather, it is an object that brings our communal worship of the Triune God (which is outside time and space and certainly popular musical styles).

    This is not a matter of taste. Taste has nothing to do with it. It is a struggle between those who wish to use music that makes them feel good versus those who wish to follow the thousand-plus year musical patrimony that fed thousands of saints.

    Please forgive me if I sound passionate about this, but I am. There is a clear right and wrong here and I am baffled as to how anyone can see otherwise.

    And to answer a question on why mega-churches do so well? It’s not a positive attitude….it’s emotional manipulation.

  31. I agree with the Church’s OFFICIAL legislation on the matter, not with the “de facto” disobedience of many of the clergy. P & W is not fitting, becoming, appropriate music for the Sacred Liturgy – according to the Church, not according to me, or to Bishop You-Name-It, Father So-and-So, or much less Deacon You-Guessed-It. The article to which the Rev. Deacon links gives us the mind of Holy Mother Church, to Whom/Which Jesus Christ is espoused. Therefore, as much as I enjoy P and W music – outside of the Liturgy, I’ll obey the Church and embrace Latin and Gregorian Chant, per ALL of the Church’s documents on the matter, crucifying my will so that God’s will, Jesus Christ’s will, the Church’s will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven.

  32. I think that one thing that we need to keep in mind is that for many of the young in our Church, the St. Louis Jesuit school is “old” music. Chant, plainsong, the truly traditional forms of Catholic music are completely unknown in many English-speaking parishes. When many of the youth state a preference for up-beat P&W, it is not in comparison to actual traditional Catholic music, it is in comparison to the music that was written in the 70s-90s. I dislike P&W quite a bit, but most of the stuff that I grew up with in the 80s would make me prefer P&W too if those were the only choices I knew.

    But I think this all actually reveals a much deeper problem: the prominence that “music ministry” has taken at mass. The music and the people who lead that music seem to dominate the liturgical life of most parishes. The style of hymns that are used become self-selectors for parish attendance. This happens regardless of musical taste and I have seen it manifest with Bird as clearly as with Haas. In so many parishes, the music has become the definitive element of worship.

    I will admit that I have left parishes not because the music was bad, but because the music ministers demanded that I pay more attention to them and what they were doing than to God and what He was doing on the altar. I don’t need to see the choir. I don’t need someone to raise their arm to know when to sing. I don’t need someone to announce what the Communion song is, there are page listings everywhere, and the choir only uses about a dozen songs at Communion anyway. And I don’t absolutely need there to be music at all, sometimes silence is better than what is being done.

    What I do need is a choir that will give me a glimpse of the choir of angels if they are going to sing something that I cannot sing .. and not just make most of the music un-singable to me because I am not a soprano or counter-tenor. What I do need is a choir (or cantor) that will sing the notes on the page and not turn them all to quarter notes or draw some of them out in some individualistic folk music affectation, or add random rests. What I do need is a choir that won’t keep trying to wrest my attention on to themselves. What I do need is a choir that understands what liturgical music is and how very different that is from a performance, that none of the music in the mass exists for its own sake and all of it is linked to or merely a part of some other liturgical action. What I do need is a choir that understands that the hymns are the most minor role of music in the liturgy and that most of them are optional replacements for actual mass texts, that the mass parts that often languish in spoken prose are the priority for music.

    This combox has been a very tame example, but the controversy we see in the Church over music can only exist in a culture where the music at mass has usurped an inordinate prominence. If the music were fulfilling its proper role and not straining beyond, it could not generate such controversy.

  33. Re: Adam at 30:

    Amen, brother, well said! I also wonder why the disregard, disrespect, even disobedience to so many papal allocutions and other official pronouncements regarding Gregorian chant? It’s sad that so very few are making the same point in these comments. Pervasive disobedience like this can only be ascribed to the spirit of the times.

  34. The “both/and” slogan is nowhere a defined doctrine. But, certain types use it when they want to push their agenda. It’s a red herring so ignore it.

    The issue is music at Mass. The Church has a number of official documents on this. All give pride of place to Gregorian chant. But why?

    Because chant doesn’t wag the dog. Chant adapts the human voice to the liturgical texts. Chant gives pride of place to the word not the tune.

    (P&W is primarily about tune which is why when the so-called “scriptural” songs often changed the words of scripture to fit the tune.)

    All you who argue about preference and liking certain types of music are forgetting that God is not found in emotion nor preference. Emotions ideally should be involved but faith is an assent of the mind even when we don’t feel like obeying God or trusting.
    Worship ideally engages the emotions, but emotions – disordered by sin as they are – are not the Church’s criteria for choosing music.

    Now P&W has its place. Devotions throughout history – springing from the Mass engage the emotions well. P&W can be used at devotional services. If the youth love it so much, why not have such P&W sessions after Mass. My guess is that only the gray haired boomers – and few of those -will remain.

  35. I agree with what Garpu (#29) said, “I’m really worried for the whole “us vs. them” polarization happening in the Church today. I think that, more than any other political or social issue, is what’s going to hurt the Church…”
    It’s a “my way or the highway” mode of thinking. Full disclosure: I plead guilty to being a Baby Boomer. But 30 years ago I was as big a traditionalist as some of the commenters here. If there had been an EF Mass with Gregorian chant and all the rest of it I would totally have been there. It’s not that my core beliefs have changed; what has changed is the way I think about people who aren’t like me. It would be interesting to check back in another 30 years (though I may not be here), and see if some others have also undergone a sea-change.

  36. it might be helpful to remember that when church documents talk about the importance of chant, it means what has traditionally been called “plain chant”. simple chant that is able to be sung by everyone. Chant has also become very complex and much of it can only be sung by trained choirs (usually in monasteries), there is a place in the liturgy for choirs to sing more complex music (classical, chant or P&W) but the importance of plain chant was to make sure that all could participate in the important parts of the mass. i often find in parishes that no one is hardly singing (no matter the type of music) but when the Our Father comes almost the whole congregation joins singing it in the simple chant tune….that is the goal.

    also i agree very much with the point made above that the real problem in all this is the power of the “music ministry”. get rid of the leader of song, turn off the mikes, and shut down the music ministry and the big companies/industries that fuel them and let the music come more organically from the liturgical rite itself.

  37. I think the original commentators premise that his fellow Catholics left the Church because of the music is probably an engagement in hyperbole – I can think of several other, more significant reasons that droves of people have left the Church.

    It seems that the original author is also falling into the trap of thinking the music is the most important part of mass – otherwise he would not ascribe to it the power to keep people in the pews. As a late- Baby Boomer (born in 1960), I was exposed to Gregorian Chant growing up and still love it – but I generally cannot SING it. I also happen to appreciate a lot of both the old traditional hymns as well as the “newer” music found in books like “Glory and Praise” – I was a member of the music ministry in college and I loved singing all of it.

    It seems to me that the liturgical music (kyrie, gloria, santus, etc.) should be respected and sung using the traditional chant but the mass should not be a spectator event where the music is so complex that the congregation gives up rather than trying to sing. We are a sacramental people and part of that sacrament is the communal gathering around the table of the Lord for praise AND worship – hymns are one of the ways that we pray so all should be able to join in the prayer.

  38. ……what would happen if persons viewed praise as an element of worship, and not someting separate from it….could that be a unifying start?

  39. I am sorry, but you can not blame the youth and the things they do on praise and worship music. I didn’t always grow up with praise and worship music, but praise and worship helped me to become the Christian that I am today. Im not saying that praise and worship is the only important thing, or the most important thing, but it is important in the life of a Christian. If i attended a church growing up that just prayed and prayed and that’s all they did (not saying thats a bad thing. Just using this as an example. My church, being Romanians, were VERY big on prayer, and not so much music), and I ended up being the worst adult and biggest druggie and all that secular stuff, would you blame my actions on prayer?? No. The actions I would perform are my choice, and I could have chosen my path in life whether I grew up in a more old fashioned church, or in a church that does praise and worship. My church used to not have any praise and worship at all, until the youth at my church went to a Christian camp where we were introduced more to praise and worship. I can honestly say that my generation, so far, has been a lot better than the previous generation in my church. And that generation grew up with no praise and worship. So far, we have not had anyone leave the church in my generation, and I pray that it stays like this and I also pray that those who left from the previous generation return to Christ. I am not saying that praise and worship is more important than prayer and that’s why this generation in my church is on a better path than the previous generation. What I an saying is that you can’t blame praise and worship music for the lives people live. There is nothing wrong with incorporating praise an worship as long as you don’t eliminate other necessary things such as prayer and the teaching of the gospel

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