Saturday, July 23, 2005

Liturgical Music & Synod

All I can say to this is "yay!"

"VATICAN CITY, JULY 22, 2005- The working paper of the next Synod of Bishops suggests that "songs used at present" in the liturgy should "be reconsidered." Based on responses from diocese, religious and the laity to a questionnaire, the text acknowledges in No. 61 that "to enter into sacred or religious usage, instrumental or vocal music is to have a sense of prayer, dignity and beauty." In the liturgy, music must have "integrity of form, expressing true artistry, corresponding to the various rites and capable of adaptation to the legitimate demands of inculturation, without detracting from the idea of universality," the document states.

In connection with the question of liturgical singing, the paper states that "musicians and poets should be encouraged to compose new hymns, according to liturgical standards, which contain authentic catechetical teaching on the paschal mystery, Sunday and the Eucharist." Gregorian chant In particular, the document suggests the rediscovery of Gregorian chant, as it "fulfills these needs" and, therefore, can "serve as a model," quoting Pope John Paul II. In No. 61, the text states that in the responses to the questionnaire with which they concluded the synod's first preparatory text, "some lamented the poor quality of translations of liturgical texts and many musical texts in current languages, maintaining that they lacked beauty and were sometimes theologically unclear, thereby contributing to a weakening of Church teaching and to a misunderstanding of prayer."

The paper refers in particular to youth Masses, stressing the need "to avoid musical forms which, because of their profane use, are not conducive to prayer." "Some responses," it adds, "note a certain eagerness in composing new songs, to the point of almost yielding to a consumer mentality, showing little concern for the quality of the music and text, and easily overlooking the artistic patrimony which has been theologically and musically effective in the Church's liturgy."

Unfortunately, I feel that some will see this only as a suggestion to be briefly considered and discarded; if only it were a bull... However, going from an, ahem, innovative parish, shall we say, to the one which I now attend leads me to believe that those parishes which do work to see that they music is reverent, beautiful, and dignified will have a higher attendance than those which do not. Hopefully, then, other churches will then follow the suggestion. Simply switching pastors at my old parish- which now has a fullblown Lifeteen thing and 'teenage' music- have left the masses 75% full, down from almost full under our old pastor (and the music was ok at best then). The music is DREADFUL. I mean, the Gather book is not perfect, but it is much better than that which is sung at my former parish. If parishes can move toward songs which express the Catholic faith (yes, meaning no protestant symbolic-Eucharist songs and whatnot) fully, and without reservation, I would expect church attendance to increase.

I want more attendance Church because the only catechesis many adults recieve is during the homily at mass; sometimes I think that many priests forget this. I know my parents, raising the three of us, were exhausted at the end of most everyday and could not attend any type of workgroup, or even wanted to read. Anyway, I've known people not to go to mass because the music was so bad; obviously this means 1) they don't realize what "holy day of obligation' means, or 2) the music is so bad it negates their culpability, and that 3) if we can get them to go to mass, perhaps the homily can help instruct them in something as basic as "Go to church on Sunday."

I wish we had better catechesis so we could explore deeper theological topics than "go to mass on Sunday," but that doesn't seem to be the case at the moment.

I realize that there can be a wide opinion of what constitutes "reverent and dignified," however there are some things which are obviously not. The Old Rugged Cross, while a pretty song, should not be sung during mass.

The other problem, I think, which led to this is the fact that there is a bit of a priest shortage in the US. Our priests must concentrate on theirsacramentall duties, obviously that must come first, but things that were formerly being done by religious are now being done by the lay people. Whereas many priests/brothers/nuns used to be musicians, we now have the theology/liturgical minded groups (which usually include our priests), and a lay musically minded groups; these groups do not seem able to communicate effectively with each other at this time.

This looks like it will be a very interesting Synod, I hope they are able to discuss liturgical music and give a good thorough response. I can understand, however, if it is not at the top of their list.


At 1:26 AM, Blogger Kathryn Judson said...

I'll second that "yay!"

I've linked.


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