“she shouted, ‘Oh, shut up’ and stormed out of the sacristy.”

At Orthfully Catholic there is a sadly amusing story about… well… here it is.

Today I served the RCIA Reunion Mass, which was a very interesting experience. As it was attended by people who had come home through the RCIA programme the priest and catechists decided we should show them what home they had come to by having a Latin High Mass (Ordinary Form obviously) but the Music Directress didn’t like this idea. When she was told the Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei were going to be in Latin plainchant she shouted, ‘Oh, shut up’ and stormed out of the sacristy. She then jumped in at each of those times accompanying Paul Inwood style tunes on the electric keyboard. The only thing she couldn’t put a stop to was the professional singer we had got in to sing ‘Panis Angelicum’ at Communion, however she did fight back by singing some happy clappy song straight afterwards.

One of our Lay Pastoral Assistants suggested to the priest that we make that Mass our regular Traditional High Mass and Father agreed as long as he has enough people to help him keep it going, ie a Thurifer (that’s usually me and obviously I can’t be there every week), musicians who like Gregorian Chant. So keep my parish in your prayers that this will happen and will make a difference.

I wonder what that prayer, and that insubordinate behavior by that choir directoress (who should be sacked for that) really said to those present?

Stop what you are doing and say a prayer to St. Michael for this parish.  They are on the right track but have some obstacles to surrmount.

I hope he will keep us up to date on what happens.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Jordan Potter says:

    Yep, it’s time to get a new music directress at that parish. Such conduct is unacceptable and inexcusable.

    Our parish’s music directress is also opposed to Latin in the liturgy, but I would hope she wouldn’t ever try anything so outrageous and vioolent as this woman did.

    What I’m wondering is why the priest didn’t call her back and have a talk to her to remind her of her proper role — and if she didn’t feel herself able to do her job, to let someone else step in who was able.

  2. Mary Kay says:

    I find absolutely nothing amusing about this story. Not the music director’s behavior, nor the sniggering scorn directed at her as this story makes it way around the blogs.

  3. Cantor says:

    Inwood is actually a fairly skilled composer. The writer of this letter should check out his “Easter Anthem”, published by GIA.

    He is also a scholar, and one who knows well the pre-V2 rite. I would think twice before associating him with liturgical banality.

  4. Dr. Peter H. Wright says:

    Fr. Z.,

    Someone should have locked the door.

    O.K. I immediately stopped what I was doing (blogging), and said a prayer to St. Michael for this parish.

    In fact, I’ll make it a novena of prayer to St. Michael.

  5. DoB says:

    Come on everyone. This is lay participation. I can’t help but think that the priest should have made beter use of the on/off switch in fuse box. It works pretty well with my 8 year old. I can see no reason on the evidence provided that it should not work here. Although, one might fear that this particular looney tune might be so driven as to provide her own generator!

  6. Kris says:

    Was this change in the liturgy just decided on the spot with the music directress given her orders at the last minute or something? No excuse for the stomping feet behavior of course. Sounds like the lines of authority haven’t been too well established here… like so many other parishes. Most of the time there is a laissez faire attitude to the choir/music organizers so that the pastor appears to have given over to them open ended freedom. They are going to have to be prepared for a change – I know ours will, as well as the parish administrator sister who is in the choir and loves the usual fare.

  7. Lynne says:

    In September of 2005, the people of Massachusetts began a petition drive to get a marriage amendment on the ballot. The organizers had us collect signatures at churches during the month. I volunteered to work at a parish in Brighton, St Gabriel’s, one Sunday. At the Saturday Mass, the organist and the cantor told the parishioners that they shouldn’t sign the petitions. The pastor, Father Manning, spoke to the two of them. The organist quit and Father Manning fired the cantor.

    I read in January of the following year that Father Manning died of cancer. I was proud that I got to meet him.

    I will say a pray for this parish tonight (and its pastor).

  8. peretti says:

    The battle lines are being drawn, folks. Look for the “compassionate” modernists to turn to some pretty ugly things, including vandalism and intimidation. If I read this right, this was a Paul VI Mass, not even a John XXIII Mass. This woman reacted this way just because a little Latin was put in? We must pray for our priests who will be saying the John XXIII Mass. They will have serious and hard decisions to make, including, perhaps some calls to the police to arrest some unruly occupants of their churches. Liberalism is a philosophy that defends evil at all costs, rejects moral absolutes and approves of the violent removal of opposition. Be ready for the fight, people. It is coming. Support our Holy Father and support your priests.

  9. Fr. Gabriel Possenti says:

    I just wish some music-type would tell me to, “shut up” ONE time. She never would have made it to her “keyboard.” And had she tried, a well placed .45 would have rendered said “keyboard” as irrelevant as the directress, herself, so fired would she be!!!

  10. Maureen says:

    Very sad. Hopefully the lady will find a better attitude, after embarrassing herself like that.

    Of course, it’s also possible that a spoonful of sugar could have helped. Sometimes, if you can make the person who’s objecting feel more important to the new thing going on, or in control, the person will become more positive. Nobody likes to feel helpless against change, or useless, or ignorant; and so people tend to react irrationally.

    Btw, it is possible to accompany chant with the organ (or a synth, I suppose) in a tasteful way, as the Podcazt’s own music choices have demonstrated.

  11. Mary Kay says:

    Maureen, agreed. This is one side of what happened. There’s no indication if presented respectfully or as triumphant “win” of an ongoing difference.

    Just as sad as the music director’s behavior is reading combox comments of priests’ gleeful anticipation of slapping down a lost sheep.

  12. I think it all comes down to entitlement. So many people of a certain age in America these days feel that they should be able to have everything their way, and when they don’t get it, the tantrums begin. Sixty-year olds as six-year olds.

    Their dreams of “changing the Church” to meet their needs are beginning to be shattered, and they just can’t bear the idea that they might actually have to change their own selves instead. They wanted the security of the Church without having to fully submit themselves to the transformation involved in a life in Christ.

    That’s certainly how it looks, and how sad that is.

  13. RC says:

    If this was a last-minute decision imposed by the priest, it was pretty tactless. Something went bad here besides the Kantorka’s attitude.

  14. RBrown says:

    I think it’s an example of someone thinking that the mass is an occasion for creativity.

    But it’s not confined to liturgy. I don’t think there’s a Franciscan monastery the world that doesn’t have someone who thinks he’s a great artist and hangs his masterpieces all around the house.

  15. ALL: This can be a useful thread. However, I ask you, kindly ask you, to use restraint.

  16. If they are bringing in a professional cantor, I would doubt that this was last minute. Even so, last minute or not, the “directress'” actions were absolutely wrong. As a Master of Ceremonies and a cantor at a parish, the priest has the final say if something is allowed by the rite. I have had to change plans numerous times at the last minute. Even if I don’t like the change, it is absolutely sacreligious to sabatoge the Mass like that.
    Behavior like that should result in a firing.

  17. Monica says:

    Dear Fr. Z,
    Are you sure you weren’t in a Virginia Beach parish when this incidident happened? This sounds like a typical reaction you would get from a liturgy committee member when bringing forward a legitimate liturgical concern of some kind in just about any parish in my diocese (Diocese of Richmond, VA). Only they usually conclude by telling you to “find another church if you don’t like the way we do things!” after calling you a Pharisee, of course. When those outside the Catholic liturgical spectrum become so defensive, it must be because they are now on the defense. Rome is taking steps to correct the current situation and the ones in power at the local parish level who are attached to liturgical deformations are getting worried and defensive about it. In the meantime, we prayerfully persevere.

  18. G says:

    I am not excusing such behavior in the sacristy, (toward anyone, but especially toward someone in authority over her, I presume?) and am certainly not endorsing the directress’s musical or liturgical sensibilities, but if this was a regularly scheduled Mass, the music for which has always been this person’s responsibility, I think she had a legitimate grievance.

    One prays, plans, programs, procures, prints, teaches, arranges, rehearses liturgical music… and to have last minute changes made by someone else with no thought to the preparation that might have already gone into it, or what instantaneous preparation might now be required would not cause me to shout or storm out, (I hope,) but everyone would need their winter coats the atmosphere would get so icy…

    (And meanwhile, I can only DREAM of arriviing at Church for Mass and finding out that our pastor wanted to do a Latin Mass!)

    Save the Liturgy, Save the World!

  19. GCC Catholic says:

    I’d have said to give her the benefit of the doubt after the initial outburst, but after intentionally and very publicly going against the priest’s wishes, I’d have to say the music directress should be let go. The initial outburst may have been justified if this was in fact a late decision that she may have felt was wrong and possibly tactless as some have suggested here.

    That said, there would have been no effort on her part to simply NOT PLAY at the time where the plainchant was to be sung and to sort out differences with the priest after the Mass. Plainchant is by definition unaccompanied, and the directress’s outburst strongly suggests she knew that. By playing, it was a power grab to say “you’re not in charge of the music, because I am.”

    More than what she said, it’s what was done and HOW it was done that matters.

    (All my opinion, for the little that it’s worth)

  20. Susan says:

    Okay, music director — absolutely wrong. Author of the story — no better, plus an axe to grind against said musician. I am not the only one who reads into that from the last statement, am I?
    “ie a Thurifer (that’s usually me and obviously I can’t be there every week), musicians who like Gregorian Chant.”
    This sounds like someone who wants the music director fired and is looking for some blog support. Notice the “I” and “me” focus?
    I suffered a priest (as the last musician who refused to quit) who demanded I play “Angels We Have Heard on High” in the place of the Gloria during Mass in Advent because it was so much prettier and said Gloria, just like the real song. Not all reluctant to please musicians are tantrum throwing jerks.
    The priest celebrating the Reunion Mass had some responsibility to see this problem corrected before it affected an actual MASS!
    The musician was wrong, but so is the author of this tale. And so was the priest who allowed this circumstance to intrude on a paschal feast. Laugh all you want, call it “sadly amusing,” and beat up the person accused of the tantrum,…I think the author sounds a little too pleased to have participated in someone else’s humiliation and likes making chant the issue to garner support. Mercy, please.

  21. Michael E. Lawrence says:

    Most of what needs to be said has already been said, but I’d like to add one more thing: While the music director was dead wrong on all counts, I can understand where her reaction comes from. Music directors of varying stripes in churches the world over are disrespected in ways that many would find hard to believe. Much of this disrespect, regrettably, comes from the clergy, though that is not to say that all clergy are disrespectful of musicians. Nevertheless, it is a serious problem.

    It may also be good to keep in mind that this might well have been one episode amongst a number of things, and it MIGHT not have been about ideological factors. Perhaps, if the music director was indeed approached with this at the last minute, it might not have been the first time that such a request was made minutes before Mass was to begin.

    I hope and pray that this parish is able to institute a Traditional Mass, but I also hope and pray that they are able to do it in a way that everyone is well-informed and well-prepared.

  22. Brian Sudlow says:

    If I have read Orthfully Catholic correctly, this incident actually happened in the UK.

    Of course the prist should not have dropped this out of the blue, but, on the other hand, all things being equal, ministry means service, and being organist or choir director means you should do what you’re told. What is beyond belief is that anyone would make a battleground out of the sacred liturgy while it is in progress.

    Which brings me to the lowest element of this posting. Paul Inwood might be a scholar and some of his music might be good; I have made no extensive study of it. But what I have heard of Inwood’s music in the cheery interior of Portsmouth cathedral is as cheap as Cheerios and red-raw with maudlin predictability. To hear it played on the ‘electric keyboard’ no less must have been a frightful experience. I’m afraid my sympathies are utterly with the priest and the congregation!

  23. Veiled Woman says:

    As the music director in my parish, this story made me cringe.

    For the last few years our liturgy has been held hostage by an exceptionally liberal nun whose byword is
    “Diversity” — for everyone, of course, except those with a traditional spirituality.

    I will never forget an OCP weekend I attended with her about seven years ago. The liturgies were so over the top that they more closely resembled a Broadway extravaganza depicting pagain ritual than the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. As we went through each new innovative production, I became fearful of what she’d want to introduce when we returned
    home. The fear was well founded. After months of negotiating, I had just managed to convince our pastor that using the Chant Mass setting during Lent would enhance the solemnity of the season.

    The nun had other ideas.

    On the trip back, she was excited about the new music that she assumed I’d introduce. I expressed hesitancy and said, “Liturgy can be many things, but one thing it shouldn’t be is offensive. There’s still a place for Latin.”
    Her face turned purple with rage and I was afraid she’d drive us off the road as she fumed, “Vatican II outlawed

    Since this dear woman holds a Master of Theology, I was a bit astounded at her ignorance, but left it alone.

    Over the ensuing months there were some tense battles. I got in hot water for teaching the choir Tantum Ergo
    in Latin for the resposition of the Blessed Sacrament on Holy Thursday – she wanted English.

    I learned that in her opinion, Latin wasn’t completely forbidden. She liked playing tapes of Gregorian Chant
    at various prayer services. (Nevermind that pre-recorded music is a no-no and that the chants she selected
    were completely inappropriate to the services.) The crowning incident came when she and the pastor she influenced
    threatened to fire me if I did not sing a “hymn” set to a Disney tune, “It’s a Small World” as requested by
    a parishioner who wintered in Florida. We have a new pastor now and her power is diminished, but I seriously
    doubt that we will ever see a Latin Mass in this parish.

    Why do I stay? One reason: the job helps support our only child, a 19 year old seminarian, who loves
    the Latin Mass. Where did he develop that love? Not at our parish.

  24. GOR says:

    Friction between pastor and organist/music director is not new. Years ago in a parish in England we got a new pastor – Fr. Paddy who was, of course, Irish. The organist, Mrs. K., was an ‘institution’ in the parish having served in that role for decades, it seemed.

    The issue was not so much the hymns used but the volume and speed of the playing. Fr. Paddy was of the opinion that the organ should be the ancilla not the magistra. Mrs. K. had other ideas and drowned out the congregation. I don’t know who finally prevailed as the ‘battle’ was still going on when I left the parish…

  25. Sid Cundiff says:

    What is to be done. (1) Face the problems, then (2) face the music, so to speak.

    Speaking in terms of the Federal US:


    1. We are not a musical culture. If you doubt this, go to Middle Europe, where in bars strangers will break out into song, and everyone knows maybe 40 songs by heart (just as it used to be that everyone knew 40 good stories to tell)

    2. We are a passive culture, where music performed for people to silently hear: from muzak to hip-hop. So in the pew, most folk would rather just sit silently. And if the music offered is banal or kitsch, maybe to sit silently is the right thing to do. But not when the music is un-banal and un-kitsch.

    3. What music we do hear is metrical. Chant isn’t.

    4. We are a culture of entertainment and feel-good: Huxley’s vision of dystopia has beaten out Orwell’s. “Got problems? Watch distracting TV, or eat something (sweet or high carb), or just have a beer (or some other chemical dependent).” I suspect that this may be the real motivation of the disobedient choir director in question on this blog. Yet 40% of the Psalms are laments, thus endorsing the fact that its fine to tell The Almighty that things are just terrible. What is more, the entertainment of mass culture also isn’t the sublime or the ecstatic, and has the depth of a pizza pie pan.

    5. We are also a very secular culture; that the religious obliges a different kind of music just doesn’t occur to folks.

    6. We are an astonishingly poorly educated society. We know our trade, maybe a sport, and nothing else.

    7. Our culture’s historical memory goes back to about 5 min. ago.


    1. Everyone frankly acknowledges 1-7 supra.

    2. All hymns in 3/4 meter, or with high syncopation, or which don’t begin on the downbeat, are banished, forever. All hymnals published after A.D. 1300 are to be burned. The Church already has a hymn book: it’s called The Book of Psalms: scripture, so that is how The Almighty wishes to be sung to. Throw in canticles, and maybe hymns dating up to the Pange Lingua. Enough hymns. Indeed, the hymn really belongs in the Office, not the Mass. For Mass see ##3-5 infra.

    2. A parish should hire a someone who knows chant, knows how to teach it, and who can play the organ. He in turn builds up a schola, one that can sing from old notation.

    3. This parish musician should put the Solesmis Kyriale in every pew. Then he is to teach it. If old notation is just impenetrable, then let’s have a Kyriale with new notation.

    4. If a OF (ordinary form) Mass, then in addition to the Kyriale, handouts at mass should be distributed at the door. The handout should have the entrance antiphon with a psalm, the responsorial psalm and its antiphon, the communion antiphon with psalm, – all in chant as in the Graduale Romanum, be in English translation or the Latin.

    5. If a OF, the priest, deacon, lector, and the congregation should chant all their respective parts, except the sermon, regardless of the language used. Seminary should teach the priest so to chant, or the new musical director.

    6. For the time being, the only instruments should be the organ and bells.

    7. If the EF, then let’s teach folks to say or sing their parts as well.

    8. “Vatican II outlawed Latin!” An acquaintance of mine is a Baptist preacher and pastor. He decided to do away with the Sunday evening service, because of poor attendance. One outraged parishioner told the pastor that twice on Sunday was in the Bible. “But where does it say that in the Bible?”, the pastor asked. “I don’t know, but it’s in there somewhere!” Get in the habit of carrying around a copy of the Vatican II documents, and demand to be shown the place where Latin is supposedly outlawed.

  26. Mary Jane says:

    As a music director, I loathe last-minute changes (except for the ones I make). At the same time, public freaking out is “over the top.” And violates my mantra, “The pastor is always right; the pastor signs my paycheck.” There’s going to be a great deal of tension in parishes where folks who have wanted more “traditional” music or more Latin will come forward with requests, feeling empowered by the Motu Proprio. There will be folks on the liturgy committee or liturgists/parish administrators/pastors (or whatevers) who aren’t going to welcome these overtures because they thought they took care of these people years ago.

    I count myself lucky – an intelligent pastor who trusts me, no liturgy committee, a pretty willing choir.

  27. Often the issue rests not exclusively with the (fill in the blank ministry) of the parish. I’ve mentioned before that this is a process of managing change. Some people, no matter how much you try to lead them pastorally, will not respond favorably to the return to tradition. They are emotionally, spiritually and mentally bound up in a state of perpetual adolescence and find it impossible to, in the words of St. Paul, “put aside childish things”. For others, this may be the first taste of the truth, beauty and goodness of traditional Catholicism, never having been presented with the alternative. I for one believe, however, that most people are reasonable when reasoned with, especially when it pertains to their gainful employment. If this is the direction in which the pastor wants to take his congregation, I think he needs to make it very clear to all concerned what changes are going to take place and why. One cannot simply default to the “I’m in charge because canon law says so.” routine, although it may come to that eventually. This whole return to tradition on the part of the Latin Church is a process of re-evangelizing the senses and sensibilities of the faithful. It requires some fatherly, pastoral sense, which does not equate to a lack of fortuitude or firmness. In fact, issuing dictates from on high without properly shepherding is its own form of conflict avoidance. One then does not need to engage at the level of pain and misunderstanding when something folks have known and been taught for 30 years as true and good is suddenly taken away and said to be not in keeping with Catholic tradition.

    I’m not trying to excuse the mistress of music, BTW. Her behavior should be addressed quickly and formally and in the very least she should receive a verbal or written warning. (Weapons are not required.) But to think that all of the sudden everyone will buy in to the restoration the pastor wants to attempt because he says so without any context or rationale or catechesis, for that matter, is naive. Again, I appeal to Don Bosco: reason, religion and kindness, coupled with a little fatherly fortitude should do the trick.

    In ICXC,


  28. N.W. Clerk says:

    Only GCC seems to have gotten it right:
    there would have been no effort on her part to simply NOT PLAY at the time where the plainchant was to be sung and to sort out differences with the priest after the Mass. Plainchant is by definition unaccompanied, and the directress’s outburst strongly suggests she knew that. By playing, it was a power grab to say “you’re not in charge of the music, because I am.”

    Some of you may feel sorry for the music director and excuse her behavior
    (though your resonse is incomprehensible to me – she yelled SHUT UP in the

    But then to go on and throw a temper tantrum that disrupted the HOLY SACRFIICE
    OF THE MASS – simpy beyond the pale, and no excuse about one’s personal “feelings” are

    Game-playing, doing things with a bit of “sugar,” etc. – this is for toddlers,
    not grown adults, and NOT in the presence of the Eucharist.

    This story isn’t just sad, it’s outrageous.

  29. Sean North says:

    This entire thread offers prime testimony as to the failure of the post-Vatican II ecclesial structure. The clashing opinions of so many laity here on this thread is what priests face everyday in their parishes — and which consumes so much of their time on parish politics.

  30. Mary Kay says:

    Gordo, well said.

    NW Clerk, as I said on another blog, I’ve seen clergy, both dissident clergy and traditionalist clergy, do an equivalent during Mass, yes during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Other times, not quite at the level of a tantrum, but still misused their authority at Mass for a personal agenda.

    If that’s unacceptable for a layperson (and it is), what about the clergy who do so?

    As for the immature “shut up,” none of us know the full story, we only have one side. Before I saw your post, I had planned on saying that everyone has all this pent up frustration from the “Latin is outlawed” people and it gets vented on either the closest or easiest target. How do you know that those who approached the music director didn’t provoke her out of their own frustration? Granted, not the best response, but “shut up” sounds more like a response to provoked rather than a neutral stating “We’re singing these songs.”

    Back to my original planned post which was that some venting is natural, but at some point, need to get past that and be charitable towards each other.

  31. Gavin says:

    What’s disgusting about this are the actions of the priest. I’m assuming that this musician was neither qualified, prepared, or willing to do chant. That priest put her on the spot, and I’ll tell you she acted a lot more civilized than I would have. If my priest were to say to me, ON A SUNDAY no less, “Gavin, I want you to do On Eagle’s Wings four times at Mass today”, he’d have my resignation and no musician for the Mass. While I strongly disagree with this woman’s hatred of Latin, the priest was just a jerk to demand something that she could not and did not want to do. I know MANY good priests who have jumped through hoops being nice about getting quality music from their musicians. Sometimes it’s wasted energy, sometimes they come through. But still, shame on that priest and double shame on anyone getting joy out of what is essentially relegating the role of a musician to “play what I want”.

  32. Sean,

    You wrote:

    “This entire thread offers prime testimony as to the failure of the post-Vatican II ecclesial structure. The clashing opinions of so many laity here on this thread is what priests face everyday in their parishes—and which consumes so much of their time on parish politics.”

    If you read your Church history, there were clashing opinions amongst the laity and between laity and clergy and even amongst the clergy long before 1965.

    The issue is not structural, it is systemic. It has little to do with Vatican II, and everything to do with the crisis of fatherhood in society and the Church.

    Regarding the misconduct of the music leader, I believe I did say that in the very least she should receive a formal warning, and would even go so far as to say be placed on probation. (One more issue and you are out!) Then again, I think as with many an issue of poor performance, leadership has some accountability for the problem. The goal should be to win her heart and mind to the vision, or in the very least to help ensure her behavior conforms to it.

    In ICXC,


  33. Gavin says:

    peretti: “Look for the “compassionate” modernists to turn to some pretty ugly things, including vandalism and intimidation.

    Mr. Possenti: “She never would have made it to her “keyboard.” And had she tried, a well placed .45 would have rendered said “keyboard” as irrelevant as the directress

    Vandalism and intimidation, anyone? As a “music type” skilled in Latin and chant, I will have to remember Mr. Possenti’s name so to make sure I am never employed by his parish!

  34. B Knotts says:

    It does appear that perhaps more notice could have been given in this case, but this in no way excuses the behavior of the music director, who should take (or be given) some time off, for her own good.

    One of the things that we all need to remember is that we do not own the liturgy. It is given to us by Christ through the Church, and while we can use our talents to try to present it in the best way we can, it is not a show, and we must accept that there will be times when things are not quite to our liking.

  35. The last time my chant choir sang at a Mass, we were sabotaged by the cantoress.
    She was very cooperative during rehearsal, and agreed when she was told not to
    sing at a mic, and not to wave her arms to direct the congregation, and that she
    needed to blend in with the choir; but then at Mass, she deliberately did all
    these things, plus ruined all our cues and started us singing the hymn for the
    preparation of the gifts at the time we were supposed to say the Creed. She is
    the right hand man for the director of music at that parish, who isn’t even
    Catholic and who is downright hostile toward us, and everything she did was at
    his direction (and I know this because she said so herself).

  36. Hammerbrecher says:

    Thats Father to you Gavin.

  37. I am shutting off comments. This is too nasty.

Comments are closed.