I try hard not to be a cranky Catholic. I may have a personal preference, but I can appreciate all kinds of worship styles, even those that some folks regard with disdain: Organ and guitar. Choir and community. Gregorian chant and David Haas vocals. Latin and vernacular.
I do have one issue, though, which no one from the post-Vatican II era of the St. Louis Jesuits seems to understand: I can’t pray over the sound of pop music.
That means that as I approach to receive communion, as I return to my pew, as I kneel, my mind is thumping along to whatever enthusiastic hymn is being played/sung at the time. Maybe the lyrics are infused with Eucharistic meaning: “Eat My Flesh, Drink My Blood…” “One Bread, One Body…” “I Am the Bread of Life…”
And I am drawn in, singing along to the beat.
What I am NOT doing, though, is what I believe God wants of me in that sacred moment when He unites His flesh with mine, gives Himself fully to me: I’m not saying, “Hi, Jesus! How’re you? Thanks for coming to me today…. I love you.” I simply can’t give voice to that reverent prayer amid the cacophony of organ and choir and congregation and babies crying and people shifting in the pews…. so frequently, I find myself driving away from the church, getting out onto the road, and thinking for the first time: “WAIT! I just received Christ in the Eucharist! WHOA!!” I’ve been so busy singing along, standing, sitting, kneeling, doing whatever you want me to do, that I haven’t really prayed at all.
I don’t think it should be like that.
So here’s the deal: If you’re playing the music during a Mass and I show up, why don’t you play all the other songs as usual, then slip in one quiet instrumental–a Bach prelude, or a peaceful selection by Liszt or Beethoven–during the communion processional. No words. Just peaceful, meditative music. If you’re absolutely dying to showcase your skill with a contemporary eucharist-themed hymn, we’ll all sit down after the communion and you can play it then.
At the entrance procession, go ahead and play “Gather Us In.” At the recessional, choose something like “All the Ends of the Earth” or “You Are the Light of the World.” Some traditionalists won’t like it, but I say, “Go for it. Play whatever makes you happy, whatever your skill level will permit.”
But during Communion, when I’m talking to God and He’s talking to me, leave me alone–okay?