“Why I hate bad Church music” – GUEST COLUMN

The latest edition of the newspaper of the Diocese of Madison (where Bp. Morlino now reigns) has a “Guest Column” worthy of your time.

My emphases and comments:

Why I hate bad church music
Guest column
Written by Nico Fassino [His short bio is at the end.]

Recently, the Catholic Herald published two excellent articles by the incredibly well-educated and well-formed Sr. Joan L. Roccasalvo, entitled “Rebuilding Catholic Culture.”  [I have written about her HERE.]

In these essays, Sister Roccasalvo vigorously defends the teachings of the popes and the Second Vatican Council concerning what music is proper for use during the sacred liturgies of the Church, while simultaneously arguing against the use of modern folk-style music commonly found in many parishes.

Response to letter writers

I decided to write this piece after reading several letters-to-the-editor written by people who were very unhappy with her columns.  [In Madison?  I'm shocked!]

I actually wanted to title this column “In Defense of Sacred Music: Why the Celebration of Christ’s Death and Resurrection at the All-Holy Mass Deserves Something Better Than Low-Brow Tripe,” but that was obviously too long and I figured that “Why I hate bad Church music” would still draw the eyes of those I wanted to reach.

Some people are upset that Sister Roccasalvo condemns the use of songs that have very little value as actual music (i.e., songs that are shoddily composed, use inappropriate or heretical text, call for the use of multiple tambourines as accompaniment, etc).  [Not exactly holding back is he?  Compliments to the editor of the paper for printing this.]

[Here we go... ] Her comments have been interpreted by some as an attack on the ability of the congregation to actively participate in the liturgy. Others are offended because they believe that any music that makes them feel good is proper for use at the Mass.  [Well done, Nico.]

I’ll be honest: when I hear comments like this, I want to beat my head repeatedly against my desk. Rather than give in to this temptation, here I will instead offer two simple points before moving into the main portion of my thoughts on the matter.

[This next part might strike regular readers here as familiar...] (1) Active participation at the Mass has nothing to do with singing at every possible moment, carrying dishes and banners around the sanctuary, or orchestrating giant liturgical puppet shows. I would direct anyone who doubts this to actually read the documents of Vatican II, and also to note the effect that this mentality has had on the Church over the past 50 years.

(2) The value of proper liturgical music has nothing to do with how you personally feel about it, or what your personal opinions are about music. Just think about what would happen if the only criteria for proper liturgical music were that it peripherally mentions God and/or that it makes you feel fuzzy inside — why, we might start singing songs by John Denver or Elvis or Simon and Garfunkel or the Beatles! What a crazy, screwed-up world that would be, huh?

Purpose of the Mass

Look, let’s get serious for a moment. The entire kerfuffle (read: decades-long-slugfest) over what music is proper for use at the Mass really centers [NB] on a fundamental disagreement about what the purpose of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass truly is.

Many of those who protest Sister Roccasalvo’s articles feel that worship at the Mass is about “us” as the people of God. Because of this, they argue, we should sing songs that we like, play music that makes us feel good, and “craft a liturgy” that “reflects our community” and “validates” our desires for “self-expression in relation to the divine.”

Barf. [Still not holding back, it seems.] I’m sorry, but this viewpoint is simply incorrect. Very incorrect.

The Mass has never been about “us.” It is not celebrated for us, [Welllll...] it is not something that is intended to be modified by us, and it does not have our feelings or preferences as its fundamental purpose or end.

The Mass is, instead, where we go to worship the Thrice-Holy and Almighty God in the manner that is the most pleasing to Him. It is where we bend our knee in humble adoration before the True Cross of the Savior as we actually experience His one sacrifice on Calvary. It is where we attempt to fulfill our mighty obligations of service and worship. It is where we lay down our entire selves before Him, seeking forgiveness and mercy.  [Nicely put.  I wonder how this will go over in Madison.]

Meaning of active participation

As we worship and submit ourselves to Him in this way, the Mass is also where God in his infinite generosity and compassion gives us the gift of his very Self (although nothing we have done has merited such a gift). It is for these reasons that the Second Vatican Council exhorted all the faithful to active and fully conscious participation. Without active interior participation at the Mass, how could we ever hope to worship in a worthy or proper manner?  [Active receptivity.]

Here is the crucial point: no one is arguing that the Mass should become some somber and morose ritual of lamentation. Rather, what could be the cause of greater joy? God himself has become a Man and has forgiven our sins! Christ is Crucified and is Risen! Alleluia!

Offer our best and most beautiful [A point often lost on parish musicians and the priests who tolerate them.]

However, because the Mass is not something that we created; because God himself has given the Mass to the Church as the means by which He desires to be worshipped; because the Church has protected and nurtured these sacred mysteries across the ages; for these and so many reasons, it is not proper that we change the focus of the Mass from Christ to us. It is not proper or just that we do anything that obfuscates the sacred and solemn nature of the Mass. It is not proper to offer anything less than our best and most beautiful to God in the liturgy.

If you like folk-style music — great. If you find it comforting, joyful, and prayerful — wonderful. No one is trying to say that this is wrong. By no means! Hold a folk-music prayer-session at your home. Gather together with others and have a concert of praise. Even dance if you want to!

However, the Church has always, and will always, desire to offer something altogether different and far more proper to the Lord at the Mass. Love and Justice demand that we do so, and we should, in love, do so with joy.

That is what rebuilding our Catholic culture is all about.

Nico Fassino has sung and informally studied sacred music for over six years, and has been employed as a choir director at St. Paul’s University Center in Madison and St. John the Baptist Parish in Waunakee. He also serves as chancellor of the League of Distinguished Gentlemen, a registered student organization at UW-Madison dedicated to Truth, Beauty, Goodness, and fighting communism. [!] He welcomes feedback at league.of.distinguished.gents@gmail.com

WDTPRS kudos to Nico Fassino!

UPDATE:

I was chatting with a priest friend via Skype, who, not being a covert as I am, experienced a lot more really bad music than I.  And I converted at St. Agnes in St. Paul!

In any event, my friend told me about this, which he had to sing in church as he was growing up.

This is but one example of why we need to reform our music.   In the 60′s and 70′s this stuff was really popular.   This sort of thing twisted the minds of Catholics of two generations away from what the Church really asked for.

WARNING: Put your Fr Z mug of Mystic Monk Coffee down BEFORE watching this.

And people wonder why we are ambivalent about the fruits of Vatican II.

Technorati Tags: ,

FacebookEmailPinterestGoogle GmailShare/Bookmark

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Fr. Z KUDOS, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

76 Responses to “Why I hate bad Church music” – GUEST COLUMN

  1. backtothefuture says:

    Thank God i’ve found a church where they offer a solemn high mass every sunday with a professional schola. The music at novus ordo masses is atrociuos. I rather have no music at all. Why do we need to hear protestant hyms and God bless America at Calvary?

  2. Father K says:

    I have not experienced it myself but I have been made aware that at some funerals, as the casket is been taken from the Church at the end of a funeral Mass, a recording of Frank Sinatra singing ‘I did it my way’ is played over the loud speaker system. This despite a very accessible translation of ‘In Paradisum’ being available which is easily sung to the tune of a hymn most people know. The problems lies with the priests who allow this and simper at the way in which they are making ‘liturgy relevant and meaningful.

  3. Josephus Muris Saliensis says:

    What a cheerful way to end the afternoon.

    Only a few years ago -
    1) no editor would have printed this,
    2) very few young college musicians would have felt it,
    3) very few people would have had the learning in the facts of the Council to write it, and
    4) it would not be the subject of the worldwide interest and debate that its presence here proves it to be.

    Laus Deo!

  4. acardnal says:

    Recorded music is NOT to be played at Mass.

  5. Southern Catholic says:

    That is a well written article about this issue, probably the best I’ve seen in a while. I pray this will make people think about what the Mass is truly all about. Thanks for sharing this.

  6. JimGB says:

    Excellent column. I have spoken to my pastor about some of the hymns selected for Mass at my parish church, and the fact that the music director, who is an excellent musician, periodically feels compelled to abandon our magnificent and well-maintained pipe organ for a keyboard and synthesizer that he carries under his arm when he leaves! The pastor has been responsive on limiting the use of the keyboard, but the modern “hymns” by certain composers (and we all know who they are) continue to be a staple. Should not these issues also be addressed to the publishers of the missalettes, who include these vapid hymns in their publications with the approval of the USCCB?

  7. Ben Yanke says:

    All the good stuff’s happening here in Madison. :D

  8. laurazim says:

    I know Nico–wonderful young man. Interestingly, directly beneath his wonderful guest column was yet *another* letter berating Sister Joan’s series of articles. Included in the letter was the closing remark, “It is right to express ourselves with a free abandon with whatever talents we as a community possess.”

    *sigh*

    Yes. Well. Apparently THAT letter writer was not present at the Diocesan celebration of Solemn Evening Prayer last Thursday, at which Bishop Morlino spoke at length about BEAUTY within the Church, especially with regards to music. It was great the way he resoundingly supported SAVE THE LITURGY, SAVE THE WORLD!! (Fr. Z., if you have not yet heard this homily, I *highly* recommend it! http://www.isthmuscatholic.org/resources/media/431/)

  9. APX says:

    we might start singing songs by John Denver or Elvis or Simon and Garfunkel or the Beatles! What a crazy, screwed-up world that would be, huh?

    At my home parish we have a musically-gifted deacon. He is musically-gifted, but not in the musically circumspective kind of way. He re-writes popular music to make it “churchy” which ends up in the liturgical music repertoire.

  10. Seamus says:

    Just think about what would happen if the only criteria for proper liturgical music were that it peripherally mentions God and/or that it makes you feel fuzzy inside — why, we might start singing songs by John Denver or Elvis or Simon and Garfunkel or the Beatles! What a crazy, screwed-up world that would be, huh?

    I regret to say that, at the church serving the college I attended in the early 70s, they actually *did* sing Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge over Troubled Waters,” as well as Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind.” And yes, it was a crazy, screwed-up world of bad there.

  11. HighMass says:

    Wow “Joy is like the Rain”….brings back memories and NOT good ones….the music these past 45 yrs or so has been horrid……..”sing sing sing…sing people of God sing, sing with one accord” is another one thats right up there with the progressives…..Bugnini’ism….BRING back the Beautful Gregorian Chant…it does work for the Novus Ordo…

  12. mysticalrose says:

    I hate to tell you this but the nuns at my school were still using “Joy is Like the Rain” for Mass . . . in the 90′s. Sigh.

  13. Tina in Ashburn says:

    Awesome to see a wonderful article like this show up in a diocesan paper. Woohoo!!!

    God Bless this author! Nico is so right: “what music is proper for use at the Mass really centers on a fundamental disagreement about what the purpose of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass truly is.” This is my conclusion as well…oh. so he must be right. LOL. No really, this is where all arguments lead. Here is the crux: GOD TELLS US HOW HE WANTS TO BE WORSHIPED. Sorry for the shouting but that’s how it is. From beginning to end in Scripture are examples of God giving us specifics on this, showing approval, showing disapproval…telling us. Then Jesus gives us the Mass and leaves the Church in charge of these disciplines and rules.

    Until our bishops and clergy get instruction on music [no, the two-hour class in Seminary is not adequate], and understand how Liturgy and Liturgical Music are really the expression of the same thing, many faithful music directors are helpless. One must have a supportive pastor to succeed in a change. And that pastor needs a bishop to back him up.

    Before the mess of the 60s there existed a Black List that all parish priests followed assiduously. My aged mother remembers Fr Perrera [sp?] followed its recommendations to the letter for the choir in the little country parish. This list can still be found on http://musicasacra.com/literature/ and was created by true, faithful experts, lead by clergy, approved by the hierarchy. This list comprised the understanding of the good old-fashioned Church musicologists and those steeped in Liturgical practices and expertise. Today hardly anyone exists who could create a work such as this list because no one today has that kind of training, background, immersion in everything of old. [Remember the USSCB trying to come up with such list a few years ago? Impossible.] If you read through this list, you will start to see a pattern: no opera pieces, no emotional stuff, no Irish tunes, nothing is even close to the ‘all about me’ stuff we hear today. Songs and choir books that many think are traditional and ‘safe’ are on this list. Ultimately, you can see how hymns were once forbidden right after the influx of junk at the Reformation. It becomes so confusing, it is easiest to return to the Ideal, which is simply chanting the prayers of the Mass. Afterall, hymns used to be used only for devotions, processions, and other observances outside of Mass.

    I mention the list because music discussions can become so subjective as to become as contentious and baseless as the liberal arguments. There’s nothing like concrete direction on what not to sing to illustrate what is acceptable. And then of course, there is no substitute for reading the Church’s documents on music yourself, the earlier the better. If you can read Latin, even better!

  14. joecct77 says:

    I was in the student choir in 1965. We sung the Gelineau psalms and @ summer camp in NH, the Marist Brothers sung “Lord I am Not Worthy” during Vespers.

    I have not heard the psalms since the NO Mass (though THEY are in the parish hymnal) and 2 years ago, for the first time since 1967, I heard “Lord I am Not Worth” @ St. Monica’s in Methuen, MA. I cried tears of joy and congratulated the music director and pastor after the Mass.

  15. jhayes says:

    The Mass is, instead, where we go to worship the Thrice-Holy and Almighty God in the manner that is the most pleasing to Him….

    God himself has given the Mass to the Church as the means by which He desires to be worshipped/i>

    Apart from “do this in remembrance of Me”, where has God told us how he wants to be worshipped and what is most pleasing o him?

    Where did he give “the Mass” to us – if that means a specific form of worship service.

    It seems to me that apart from the renactment of the Last Supper, the Mass we currently have (whether the OF or EF) is a human construct that can change over time as people’s view of what is most appropriate changes.

  16. jhayes says:

    Sorry, the italics were upposed to stop at the end of the second paragraph.

  17. aviva meriam says:

    Hate to admit this but we relocated to the North Dallas region….. and last Sunday I made the mistake of attending Mass at the local parish. The music was straight from a Baptist revival, performed by musicians in a very “catchy” manner….. made me long for the days of my AZ NO parish and the rousing renditions of Gather Us In…..

  18. Angie Mcs says:

    Liturgical impropriety aside, and no reflection on Frank, I’ve always thought “I did it My Way” was a bit self- centered: ” For what has a man, what has he got; if not himself, then he has naught. ” it can still be applied to much of what is wrong today, as so many of us express self- entitlement in every conceivable form. Perhaps I’m taking this too seriously here and beating up on a classic Sinatra song, but I’d like my final mass to reflect my fullest expression of my love for our Lord.

    Besides, can you imagine approaching St Peter, saying ” I did it my way”? ” Good for you. NEXT!”

  19. acardnal says:

    Here is a link to the GREAT article about church music which set off the firestorm of Letters to the Editor. I couldn’t agree more with the writer, Sr. Joan Roccasalvo, CSJ:
    http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/column.php?n=2307

  20. jflare says:

    Um, hmmm, yes, well……
    I’m suddenly reminded of two occasions, when I was maybe an 8 or 10 year old boy, singing a solo for Easter that dealt with..butterflies and Easter eggs. Even ignoring the context of Mass, I never did care much for that song. Butterflies and Easter eggs themselves ARE beautiful things, sure, but..not very appropriate for a boy, I should think.

    I see a few comments about music during the 90′s. Hate to tell you this folks, but if the music I learned between 1978 and 1989 wasn’t grand, it slid poorer in the 90′s as someone insisted that we needed to eliminate “gender bias”. So all the lyrics that hinted at male nature..became adjusted quickly to be less “troublesome”. Which is to say they lost much of what dignity they possessed.
    Then someone else decided that music was “too hard”, needed to be simpler. So, we wound hearing music that the average..person..could read practically off the street.
    Then another person decided that we would alienate too many people from Church if we said anything that might be “offensive”: in other words, we didn’t want to hurt any feelings.

    About the time we reached THAT point, I graduated from college. I only succeeded in tolerating continued trash music for a few more years. After that, I simply quit choirs.

    I only wound my way back to the choir–and the loft for the first time–when I came across a parish that actually took music seriously.

    Regrettably, much of the remainder of the Archdiocese still plods along with what I personally consider to be utter rubbish.
    Oh well. Not much I can do about it.
    Not until the bishops decide they wish for people to take the Mass seriously.

  21. Angie Mcs says:

    Yes, Father, this article was indeed very worth our time, as was your commentary. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to read it in its entirety. The phrase that strikes me the most deeply is “active interior participation.”, so simple yet so powerful.

  22. gvogt4 says:

    When people attempt to make the Liturgy their own, there is a complete breakdown of an understanding WHO it is truly about. How sad that so many claim not to “get anything out of” Mass. We’re you there when they crucified my Lord? Yes! Every time I am at Mass I am there – and more.

  23. kat says:

    OH MY! I remember Joy is Like the Rain from 3rd or 4th grade. Learned it in class for Mass. It still comes into my head and I couldn’t remember all the words. I should sit through this and relearn them! (LOL) Also remember “We are One in the Spirit” and “Here we are, altogether let us sing our song, joyfully…”

    So glad I didn’t have to deal with that from 5th grade on, when we were pulled out of Catholic schools because they were destroying our Faith.

  24. Michaeleus says:

    I could only take up to :42 on the video…ugh!

  25. Father K says: I have not experienced it myself but I have been made aware that at some funerals, as the casket is been taken from the Church at the end of a funeral Mass, a recording of Frank Sinatra singing ‘I did it my way’ is played over the loud speaker system.

    Ironically, this was forbidden at Frank Sinatra’s own funeral, at — of all places — Cardinal Mahony’s cathedral.

    jhayes says: Apart from “do this in remembrance of Me”, where has God told us how he wants to be worshipped and what is most pleasing o him? Where did he give “the Mass” to us – if that means a specific form of worship service. It seems to me that apart from the renactment of the Last Supper, the Mass we currently have (whether the OF or EF) is a human construct that can change over time as people’s view of what is most appropriate changes.

    Only if you are prepared to believe that the Church is NOT the holy Bride of Christ, teaching and speaking with His authority, and animated by the Holy Spirit. The Mass IS given to us, not invented by us. As Fr. Z has previously said in this space, it is its own source of doctrine. Changes to it cannot legitimately be made except by lawful authority (which is separate from the question whether changes SHOULD be made.

  26. RichR says:

    I have found that many people are completely unaware of the possibilities that sacred music has for Mass…..until they experience it themselves. It is like scales falling from their eyes when they hear something beautiful and sacred for Mass.

    As a member of a “teavelling” men’s Gregorian chant group ( http://www.brazoschant.org ), I have seen people crying when they finally hear music that reflects the solemnity of the doctrinal reality of the Mass. People will say things like, “I felt like I was in Heaven” or “Why can’t Mass be like that every Sunday?” It’s not that we are incredible singers – it’s that the music itself is well-written for the Mass. It draws you into contemplation of the glory of God and the transcendence of Heaven. People need to be lifted up from their weekly plodding along in their jobs, home lives, and daily struggles – they don’t need Heaven dragged down to their mundane existence and stripped of anything transcendent. People want to hunger for magnificence.

  27. RichR says:

    oops…..that would be a “travelling” men’s Gregorian chant group.

  28. VexillaRegis says:

    Good article! Since I usually play the organ myself when I go to Mass, I do not hear much bad music in church ;-). We are also blessed with a pastor, who selects tasteful hymns for our NO Masses and I choose the music for communion and recession, always classical music or an improvisation over a gregorian chant or so. People frequently comment, that they are very thankful for the reverent and solemn music. Junk food may be tasty, but after you have tried the French cuisine, you begin to understand what heavenly food is!

  29. Ed the Roman says:

    Sinatra was a great singer, and My Way is a well crafted song, but it is the National Anthem of Hell.

  30. deliberatejoy says:

    (guilty grin) I actually like ‘Joy is Like the Rain.’ I don’t ever, ever, ever want to hear it at Mass, but I still like it.

    Those plaid pants, though… I don’t ever, ever, ever want to see those anywhere.

  31. The Masked Chicken says:

    Of course, the author is right. I will spare you any other comments. My neck is trying to pretend it is a twisted dish rag. Maybe go lie down.

    Oh, alright…

    Acardinal wrote:

    “Recorded music is NOT to be played at Mass.”

    I reply…unless the Mass, itself, is a record, then I suppose it doesn’t matter :)

    The Chicken

  32. John Woolley says:

    Actually, “Ed the Roman”, the National Anthem of Hell is that masterpiece of moral theology “You Light Up My Life”. “It can’t be wrong, if it feels so right.” Uh-huh.

    – Deacon John Saturus

  33. OrthodoxChick says:

    Is it a sin for me to be completely jealous of those of you who live close enough to good parishes that you can attend EF Masses on a regular basis? All this crummy folk music being discussed is what I have to listen to week in and week out. I’m happy for all of you EF regulars. It’s just that I feel a little like Cinderella. I’ve received my invitation but I have no way to get there. And no fairy Godfather/Bishop willing to wave a magic wand and arrange things so I can attend. Is it really all that difficult to set up Latin classes and/or EF instuction workshops in and around the Diocese for those priests who didn’t receive such instruction while in seminary? If the Bishops hang back and wait for these poor priests who have 2 and 3 parishes assigned to them to find the “free time” to learn Latin and the EF Rite on their own, we’ll all witness the Second Coming before we see the return of the EF as a regular rite in every parish.

    OK. End of rant. I’ll shut up now.

  34. Sandy says:

    It only took the first few guitar notes to see a picture in my mind – a fountain bubbling, drops of water splashing, and a “New Age” group sitting around in a circle, eyes closed, “meditating” on their place in the universe!

  35. jflare says:

    “Is it a sin for me to be completely jealous of those of you who live close enough to good parishes that you can attend EF Masses on a regular basis?”

    I can sadly relate to this comment all too easily. In a location far from where I live now, I recall the only place where I could hear actually reverent music was..at the–illegally offered–CMRI parish in town. All other locations tended toward pretty lamentable music.

    Take heart though: My parish offers the Novus Ordo, but the priest–who’s roughly my age–has placed a bit of emphasis on decent liturgy.
    He’s one of the VERY few in the area.

  36. Sandy says:

    Forgot to say – God bless this awesome young man!

  37. sirlouis says:

    jhayes: I sense — maybe I’m wrong — that you’re looking for some warrant in the Bible. That’s not the only place we’ve gotten instructions from God. God told our Hebrew forefathers how to worship and Jesus told his apostles how to worship, and they told the people of the first century, who told the people of the next generation, who told the generation that followed them, who told … us. The instructions for our worship derive from our traditions. We do it in its essentials the way it’s always been done. Until the 1960s when some in the church, exploiting a weak pope, very consciously and deliberately broke from what had been handed down. We have to return to what God told us from generations of our forefathers, repudiating whiz-bang liturgies tethered only by the few slim indications in the Bible.

  38. Father K says:

    acardnal

    I don’t think the ban on recorded music is quite as absolute as it used to be – maybe you have reference to an up-to-date directive that reinforces the ban?

  39. MuchLikeMartha says:

    Oh my. That was really awful. I kept wondering if I hadn’t seen that group featured in Woodstock, the movie the last time it was on VH1.

    Now I can’t decide which was worse: the music itself or the visual antics and clothing. They looked like something out of the Brady Bunch, and all I could think of when I saw the fella playing the guitar was, “Party on, Garth!”

  40. rroan says:

    bass player = garth

  41. Melody says:

    Hooray for telling it like it is!

    Seriously, part of my problem is that a lot of this music is just plain lazily written. It’s bad music. If someone took a class in music composition they would flunk if they turned in this kind of work.
    Have you heard the new version of the English Sanctus many parishes are using? It sounds like something a kindergartner composed!

    It was my final push towards the Latin mass when I came home on Sunday groaning about another chorus of “All Are Welcome” and popped in the JRPG I was in the middle of and heard this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTGdMv0i-c4
    Which sounded more like Church that anything I had heard at my parish in the last two hours.

    Which meant I started riding the bus for two hours to get to a Latin mass. It was so worth it.

  42. jbosco88 says:

    All the music needed for Mass has been conveniently written and stored in the Liber.

  43. jbosco88 says:

    Can we compile an Index Canticorum Prohibitorum, Father?

  44. acardnal says:

    @ Father K:

    De Musica Sacra (1958) states the following:

    60 c) Finally, only instruments which are personally played by a performer are to be used in the sacred liturgy, not those which are played mechanically or automatically.

    71. The use of automatic instruments and machines, such as the automatic organ, phonograph, radio, tape or wire recorders, and other similar machines, is absolutely forbidden in liturgical functions and private devotions, whether they are held inside or outside the church, even if these machines be used only to transmit sermons or sacred music, or to substitute for the singing of the choir or faithful, or even just to support it.

    However, such machines may be used, even inside the church, but not during services of any kind, whether liturgical or private, in order to give the people a chance to listen to the voice of the Supreme Pontiff or the local Ordinary, or the sermons of others. These mechanical devices may be also be used to instruct the faithful in Christian doctrine or in the sacred chant or hymn singing; finally they may be used in processions which take place outside the church, as a means of directing, and supporting the singing of the people.

    And this from “Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship” was developed by the Committee on Divine Worship of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). It was approved for publication by the full body of bishops at its November 2007 General Meeting and has been authorized for publication by the undersigned.
    Msgr. David J. Malloy, STD
    General Secretary, USCCB

    “Recorded Music
    93. Recorded music lacks the authenticity provided by a living liturgical assembly gathered for the Sacred Liturgy. While recorded music might be used advantageously outside the Liturgy as an aid in the teaching of new music, it should not, as a general norm, be used within the Liturgy.
    94. Some exceptions to this principle should be noted. Recorded music may be used to accompany the community’s song during a procession outside and, when used carefully, in Masses with children. Occasionally, it might be used as an aid to prayer, for example, during long periods of silence in a communal celebration of reconciliation. However, recorded music should never become a substitute for the community’s singing.”

  45. Elizabeth D says:

    This has a lot to do with the beneficial influence of Fr Eric Sternberg of St Paul’s! I know Nico somewhat, he had formerly been president of Badger Catholic, the major Catholic student organization on campus, I believe during the period when Badger Catholic successfully sued the university which had decided religious groups can’t get student fee funds, that other registered student organizations get (I don’t remember the details well but it set a good precedent). I saw him perform as Screwtape in a skit one time too and he was incredible. That was a kind of warm up act before Bishop Morlino gave a highly memorable talk on exorcism to a large group of students last year.

    It should have been mentioned in the article that praise&worship music needs to go, too.

  46. templariidvm says:

    Very good article – unfortunately, I can see the look on the faces of some in my church if they were to read it – totally befuddled! “But, but, I like St Louis Jesuits, Marty Haugen, etc etc (insert favorite insipid little tune). It may part of the culture of “me” which really took off in the 60′s and continues to expand in every facet of modern life. They like something, therefore it must be good!

    That video! I remembering that song and I remember those clothes! WOW! Somethings should remain in the past!

  47. AnnAsher says:

    Hearing this perspective as familiar by no means makes me less cheerful. I think it’s awesome the young man has establish this League of Distinguished Gentlemen as well. Society deeply needs gentlemen.
    It occurred to me as I read that this desire to create meaning followed directly after the rejection of all things deeply meaningful – within the Church and beyond!

  48. liliana51886 says:

    Love this article. When he mentioned Beatles being played at Mass I had to comment. I went to a funeral today that they played “let it be” by the Beatles… AHH! It was the ressesional but still! The priest said that he did not have an issue with it because the was Nothing “unchristian” about it and it mentions Mary … This was actually the 2nd funeral in a week he has allowed that song… Pray.pray. pray .

  49. Denis Crnkovic says:

    I am no longer young. I remember the opening of Vatican II and the devastating and disheartening dumbing down of Catholic liturgy in the 1960s and 70s. These changes changed my mind about becoming a priest. They changed my mind about whether I needed to revere the personalities behind nuns’ and clergy’s habits. And, in a way that only the Holy Ghost understands, they made me remember what I had learned in Catholic school as I studied for my confirmation: the Devil will tempt in ways you can not now imagine. And he tempted me – and legions of people – to leave the Church because She “no longer presetned us anything beautiful.” I remained faithful becasue every time I had to (and STILL have to) suffer the temptation to quit the Church because She has forsaken some of the greatest gifts She has been given by God (beautiful music, fine art), I have recalled the reason the bishop of Harrisburg slapped me at my confirmation and have remained a faithful Catholic. Thank you, Mr Fassino!

  50. Legisperitus says:

    That video is a pants overdose. There must have been three picnics somewhere missing their tablecloths.

  51. Late for heaven says:

    Okay, the music and the settings and the costumes (I hope they didn’t go around in public like that, even in the swingin sixties) were to die from. But the sign language was pretty nifty. I have a friend who is studying to be a signing translator, I will forward this to her. She won’t mind the music, she is Lutheran. Or whatever.

  52. Father K says:

    acardnal

    I did stipulate ‘up to date!’ Please be attentive to adjectival phrases. We are talking about the OF. I recall in our exchange wrt maniples you seemed hopelessly confused between the two forms and legislation over a period of 50+ years. Do you have anything more recent [help - post Vatican II] which would actually address the situation I was very specific about?

  53. acardnal says:

    Father K, I referenced a 2007 document from the USCCB. Read it.

  54. acardnal says:

    I’ll repeat my above here below from the 2007 USCCB document:

    And this from “Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship” was developed by the Committee on Divine Worship of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). It was approved for publication by the full body of bishops at its November 2007 General Meeting and has been authorized for publication by the undersigned.
    Msgr. David J. Malloy, STD
    General Secretary, USCCB

    “Recorded Music
    93. Recorded music lacks the authenticity provided by a living liturgical assembly gathered for the Sacred Liturgy. While recorded music might be used advantageously outside the Liturgy as an aid in the teaching of new music, it should not, as a general norm, be used within the Liturgy.
    94. Some exceptions to this principle should be noted. Recorded music may be used to accompany the community’s song during a procession outside and, when used carefully, in Masses with children. Occasionally, it might be used as an aid to prayer, for example, during long periods of silence in a communal celebration of reconciliation. However, recorded music should never become a substitute for the community’s singing.”

  55. Cincinnati Priest says:

    Hey, I remember singing “Joy is Like the Rain” at elementary school Masses too. We didn’t have the hippy-dippy sign language interpreters though (no hearing impaired in the parish). However, I did (I am embarrassed to admit) have a pair of plaid pants that matches the horridly loud pair that the signer is wearing. Unfortunately, I was photographed in them at my brother’s wedding in the 1970s. (They were all the rage then believe it or not). I keep trying to find all the copies and burn them together with the negatives, but my family won’t relinquish them. Blackmail material, I guess :-) Let’s thank the Good Lord that those “good old days” are long over, hopefully never to return again.

  56. annmac says:

    I’m having a seventies flashback..please stop!

    Seriously..I thought folk bands were a thing of the past..NOT. My parish Priest fired the organ players in our two churches..there is now a folk band playing in one. In the other, the new “music director” does not play the organ..just the piano.

  57. Pingback: Bishop Peter J Elliott GK Chesterton Love Same Sex Marriage | Big Pulpit

  58. JohnNYC says:

    “Just think about what would happen if the only criteria for proper liturgical music were that it peripherally mentions God and/or that it makes you feel fuzzy inside — why, we might start singing songs by John Denver or Elvis or Simon and Garfunkel or the Beatles!”.

    The first time since the pontificate of Paul VI that I attended a papal audience was this past May and my jaw dropped when, after the audience was over and the Holy Father had greeted all those that were personally presented to him, I realized that the music being playing over the PA system was a symphonized version of “Hey Jude”…….yes, THAT “Hey Jude”. The one by the BEATLES. Good grief! No, I’m not joking. I wish I were! Seriously, the music that accompanied Pope Benedict’s exit from Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican on May 2, 2012 at approximately 12:15pm was an elevator-muzak-worthy version of a Paul McCartney hit from 1968. O tempora! O mores! ;-)

  59. liliana51886 says:

    I really loved this article… It’s sad to say, but when he was talking about Beatles being played during the Liturgy… I have been present. Actually there have been 2 funerals this past week that the Recessional ( yes.. the recessional, but still…) was “Let it be” by the Beatles! The excuse the priest used was “There is nothing “unchristian” about it, and it mentions Mary… Really? Is that what our Liturgical muisc has been brought down to. If there isn’t anything “unchristian” about it? Isn’t the focus of Music SUPPOSED to be Christian, as a PRAYER, deepening your INNER PRAYER. Deepening that “Active Participation”? That song, pulled me out of prayer…pulled me out of just recieving communion, pulled me out of praying for this soul… Not deepend it.

  60. philliam says:

    I could only watch a few seconds of that video (the music was horrific), but I think the “visual antics” might have actually been sign language.

    As a person with a hard of hearing brother, I have to say that sign language interpretation in mass would be a great help to him in our parishes, especially since most of them are large and echo-y.

  61. jhayes says:

    Miss Anita Thompson O.P. wrote:

    Only if you are prepared to believe that the Church is NOT the holy Bride of Christ, teaching and speaking with His authority, and animated by the Holy Spirit. The Mass IS given to us, not invented by us.

    The distinction I wanted to make was that the Mass is given to us by the Church, not directly by God as some of the earlier comments suggested. As Paul VI said in Mssale Romanum, the Church can change the form of the Mass so that it better communicates its basic meaning.

    The Roman Missal, promulgated in 1570 by Our predecessor, St. Pius V, by decree of the Council of Trent,(1) has been received by all as one of the numerous and admirable fruits which the holy Council has spread throughout the entire Church of Christ. For four centuries, not only has it furnished the priests of the Latin Rite with the norms for the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, but also the saintly heralds of the Gospel have carried it almost to the entire world. Furthermore, innumerable holy men have abundantly nourished their piety towards God by its readings from Sacred Scripture or by its prayers, whose general arrangement goes back, in essence, to St. Gregory the Great.

    Since that time there has grown and spread among the Christian people the liturgical renewal which, according to Pius XII, Our predecessor of venerable memory, seems to show the signs of God’s providence in the present time, a salvific action of the Holy Spirit in His Church.(2) This renewal has also shown clearly that the formulas of the Roman Missal ought to be revised and enriched. The beginning of this renewal was the work of Our predecessor, this same Pius XII, in the restoration of the Paschal Vigil and of the Holy Week Rite,(3) which formed the first stage of updating the Roman Missal for the present-day mentality.

    The recent Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, in promulgating the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, established the basis for the general revision of the Roman Missal: in declaring “both texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things which they signify”;(4) in ordering that “the rite of the Mass is to be revised in such a way that the intrinsic nature and purpose of its several parts, as also the connection between them, can be more clearly manifested, and that devout and active participation by the faithful can be more easily accomplished”….

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/apost_constitutions/documents/hf_p-vi_apc_19690403_missale-romanum_en.html

  62. jhayes says:

    Sorry, Miss Moore, that should have been

    Miss Anita Moore, O.P. wrote:

  63. BLB Oregon says:

    I don’t think this is just a concert for older people; it seems to be presented for the Deaf, who lip-read and use American Sign Language for actual communication (instead of as a feel-good novelty “choreography trick”). It is also not at a Mass.

    The obstacles to improving music at the Mass are these:
    1) Many people have turned to learning six or eight chords on the folk guitar or “chord piano” in place of more rigorous musical training. The informal folk style is all they can do. You see the same thing in home crafts. The more difficult and time-consuming crafts, such as crocheting lace and doing elaborate embroidery, are only recently making a come-back. Even now, a path of excellence that takes a great deal of time and practice to do well is at a disadvantage to the path that offers a shortcut to a so-called “acceptable” result.
    2) Music that is more fitting for informal gatherings of Catholics has nowhere to go but that Mass because Catholics almost never get together and sing about their faith outside of Mass.
    3) People are not taught to appreciate the finer points of music, including the need for entirely different music when settings are entirely different. Again, this is seen in the rest of life: people want to wear the same clothing everywhere that they wear to the gym, they want the same conversational tone in all communication, and they want respect of exactly the same nature to be given to everyone and at all times, without regards to changes in setting or another person’s role. Mostly, though, they want all “fuss” taken out of everything.

    I see it as an over-reaction against a legitimate desire to reject the opposite error, when this human gathering or that has had the life and humanity “formalized” out of it entirely, but we’ve thrown the baby (and a whole additional preschool!) and kept the bath water!

  64. Jim R says:

    Oh dear – in the 70′s in high school Simon & Garfunkle (“Sounds of Silence”), Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (“Teach Your Children”), and the Beatles (“Let it Be”) were all standard fare at Mass. You missed something if you didn’t experience that!

    More recently, I met someone who told me how much she loved how her church at Mass sang “Let the Sun Shine In” from “Godspell.” She was surprised to find out that song is from “Hair” along with such other, I guess, liturgical favorites, as “Sodomy” “Black Boys/White Boys” and the ever popular “Age of Aquarius.” Sometimes I am left speechless…..

  65. Jim R says:

    On a side note, my mother-in-law, who is a life-long Presbyterian, once said to me that to her the surest sign that God is alive within the Catholic Church is that the most glorious music ever written was written for the Mass for the Catholic Church. “If that is not the hand of God at work in the Catholic Church, I cannot explain it,” she said.

    So, we, of course, jettison it all for…the “Gather” hymnal. Miserere nobis

  66. joan ellen says:

    I loved Nico’s writing. Had to shut the music off very early.

    Mass for All Souls at St. Isidore’s in Grand Rapids at 7:00 p.m. 10/02/12
    This OF Mass will include traditional elements – the use of Latin, “the priest facing east, Gregorian chant, and black vestments.” A long email link with a beautiful image:
    http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?llr=6r4e4idab&v=001rBBS2uM5H39NNh6koZKB-j36PVZggdviwPVW-iBF2iyQLBIZu3WYSlS2cUtLsH0AcTGoUF_gDbJPy14ZOH4xGYL9ynOyqsqmAbI7vCswzqiZzZiE_LYWuS2hCcwJnooA. “Brick by Brick.”

  67. wmeyer says:

    I did stipulate ‘up to date!’ Please be attentive to adjectival phrases.

    Father K, that seems rather harsh and uncharitable, especially as you appear to have overlooked his later reference:

    It was approved for publication by the full body of bishops at its November 2007 General Meeting and has been authorized for publication by the undersigned.

    Nothing is gained from unpleasant retorts.

  68. Kathleen10 says:

    This past week, I was dismayed at myself. The Mass started with a youth group who was described as pro-life, which I assume they were. The cathedral was “reserved” for the groups of youth who ended up, apparently, being smaller in number than anticipated. The kids were sweet, 15ish, and it was nice to see them, but, guitar playing, protestant-type songs and actual swaying to the music was not what I was in the mood for. The young lady who sang the responsorial psalm was tunically challenged (I just made that up). My cochlei suffered. By the time the visiting pastor started using lots of inclusive language, I excused myself to my husband and went across the street to pray by the statues. I don’t know what’s wrong with me anymore. The older I get the less I can take it.

  69. Kathleen10 says:

    I forgot to add, they received a round of applause at the end of the Mass. Somebody recently said if Mass involves applause, you can be sure something has gone terribly wrong. I concur.

  70. joan ellen says:

    pitwiki, Thank you so very much. My error.

    The 40 Hours Devotion link was an accident, on the one hand. On the other, the link in error does serve as another holy example at St. Isidore’s in Grand Rapids, and while not the Holy Mass, a holy devotional . St. Isidore’s also boasts a Perpetual Adoration Chapel (about 18 years), an EF Mass on Mondays at 9:00 a.m., 5 seminarians, and the Pope John Paul II Clergy House housing 6 permanent priests as well as vacationing priests.
    I do hope and pray that St. Isidore’s in Grand Rapids, and other similar sized parishes as well, will one day offer the OF in English, the OF in Latin, and the EF on weekends. The Canons Regular of St. John Cantius in Chicago do that and their St. John Cantius parish is bursting at the seams. One of their priests told me that they are not allowed to commingle the Rubrics, and so keep the Masses distinct. They do offer much help to priests who would like to learn and offer the EF. This link: http://www.canons-regular.org/go/apostolates/.
    I shudder whenever I hear about or walk into a Mass with music that is similar to ones described in these comments. I’m comforted when hearing of and experiencing Masses that are offered with God as our end all be all.

  71. catholicmidwest says:

    I’m a convert too, Fr Z, as you know. I love everyone in the Church and I’m glad to be here, but Catholics are such DORKS sometimes. I do not have words to describe that video. ROFLOL.

  72. jflare says:

    Fr K,
    For the record, I don’t claim to know if recorded music has been banned for Mass or not. I WILL say that I hope recorded music, if allowed at all, is only allowed to a minimal degree. It’s possible you might make it work with something liturgically useful from The Priests or similar. ..Though I’m not sure The Priests have recorded anything appropriate to the Mass.. Heck, you might even succeed in introducing Gregorian Chant if anyone kept their CDs of the Silos monks from the later 90′s. I would comment though, most parishes probably will NOT be looking for recordings along these lines!

    I would suggest that if anyone feels tempted to play a CD or similar for some portion of Mass, it’d be almost as easy to obtain copies of a Gregorian Missal to begin learning THAT form of music. For that matter, a parish could easily download copies of various chants from the internet. Certainly there are many sites available, ChantCafe.com possibly being one of them.

    Sadly, I don’t expect to be hearing any outbreak of beautiful music like that soon. Too much interest in..other genres.

  73. chantgirl says:

    This could be a very easy problem to solve, if Pastors had the musical knowledge to know what is acceptable and the courage to direct their music directors and organists in the right direction. In reality, this is a very difficult problem to solve because peoples’ feelings are involved, many pastors are uninformed about what is acceptable or don’t obey the directives because they don’t want to upset people. I have friends all over the liturgical music spectrum, and the ones who are attached to music that isn’t suited to liturgy are attached to “praise and worship” style music. I was part of this mentality for several years, and these people like the emotional high that they get from this music. They do not feel the same about chant or polyphony because it is foreign to them and they don’t get the same emotional response. They usually have not been exposed to this type of music as children and it feels strange to them. Nevermind that liturgical music is supposed to be focused on worship of God, and not our own emotional response. I did not encounter chant and polyphony in Church until I was in my twenties, and I immediately loved it because I was trained in classical music and opera, and because, as my relatives kid me, I am hopelessly ren-faire and born in the wrong century. Chant and polyphony is jarring to the unexposed for the same reason that the EF is- it is outside of their normal daily experience. Frankly, we shouldn’t feel completely relaxed with liturgy and liturgical music. It should jar us out of our daily grind to focus on something otherworldly, something that takes concentration. I don’t know of any instances in scripture or the writings of the mystics where someone encountered the Almighty and did not feel jarred. The transfiguration comes to mind, as the three lucky apostles fell to the ground in terror. St. Teresa of Avila wrote that she always experienced fear at the beginning of her meetings with God. I’m not saying we need to scare the daylights out of everyone who comes to Mass, but they should not hear the same kind of music that they hear on the radio. Holy things are set apart, and liturgical music should be set apart as well. For those parishes with groups who are strongly, emotionally attached to praise and worship style music, perhaps the pastor could let them have a warm-up praise session in the church basement before Mass, and then start to employ liturgically appropriate music IN the Mass.

  74. Kenneth Hall says:

    I’d rather hear Protestant hymns of the old school than a lot of the post-1900 and particularly post-Vatican II music we get nowadays.

    The Mass is, instead, where we go to worship the Thrice-Holy and Almighty God in the manner that is the most pleasing to Him.

    Ironically, that is the reason I thought I should shut up about wanting my Bach and Handel in preference to “hippie ‘hymns,’” reasoning that who was I to question the choice of the music director, presumably with the approval of the pastor?

    Well, I’m learnin’.

  75. Elizium23 says:

    I have good liturgical news from my parish in Scottsdale, AZ. First a note about projectors. The same document that bans recorded music also bans projectors. It is interesting to note that my diocese, like many in the US (and maybe the world?) have mandated projector use at some Masses, for promulgation of instructional videos and charity appeals. My diocese has videos shown a couple times a year for important occasions such as the CDA drive and Safe Environment information. Now, you can argue somewhat about the authority of the bishop to dispsense this rule but for all I know, he has consulted Rome and got a green light for occasional use. As for recorded music, as far as I can tell, there has been no lifting of this ban, and it is simply very poor taste to use recorded music for something that should be performed by human ministers of the Word.

    Now, our parish is going through an exciting transition. When I joined six years ago, we were in CCM hell, with a quartet rock band. Since then, our pastor has slowly but surely refined the musical repertoire. First we threw out Spirit & Song. Then Choral Praise went the way of the dodo. Finally this month, we prepare to cross the threshold and remove Gather Comprehensive from service. And I couldn’t be happier with the replacement selections. We will retain a few traditional hymns with organ, drawing from Adoremus. But the bulk of our music is going to be chanted proper antiphons using the Lumen Christi Missal by Adam Bartlett! I am over the moon and overjoyed with the decision. The pastor could not have made a better choice. He is doing what the Church wants. Yes, we celebrate the OF, but it is the most reverent and faithful OF you will find for miles around, and we retain Latin in “pride of place” for a few bits.

    So next time you are in Scottsdale, come visit us and let us know how you like it!