“Dare to do as much as you are able.” Wherein Fr. Z rants.

“Quantum potes, tantum aude” is what we sing in the Angelic Doctor’s wonderful Corpus Christi sequence.   “Dare to do as much as you are able.”

Were this prudently applied to sacred worship in all our churches and chapels, and we might see a renaissance a Catholic identity that is effective both ad intra and ad extra, both within the Church herself and also in the public square.

Each community has different resources, of course.  But in all places we can please God by doing our best!  In some locales that will be humble and in others grand.  But let God be worshipped with our best!

In the Latin, Roman Church that means a deep and brutally honest reassessment of our liturgical practices.  It also means the use of the Roman Rite! Fully.  Of course I mean the Extraordinary Form.  This can serve first as a remedial influence and then as a deepening force, particularly on the priests who use it, who in turn create a knock-on effect in their congregations.

Sacred music is a huge element of our worship.  Quantum potes, tantrum aude.   It is hard to turn around the musical practices of a parish.  This is one sphere of life which makes people freak out.   We must have a lot more catechism and patient work to turn around our understanding of the role of music in worship and to pry open again the great treasury of sacred music, simple and complex, that was taken from us, slammed shut, locked up, and sunk in the depths of shallowness in the name of Vatican II.

A friend (here) in NYC who is involved at Holy Innocents in Manhattan happened to email me something from their upcoming musical items for the week.

Music for the Week of 4/24/16

4/25                Monday          6:00PM          Mass

St. Mark II solemn tone

 P:        LU1431 (Protextísti me LU1146)
O:        Mass IV LU25; Credo IV LU71

4/27                Wednesday   6:00PM          Mass

 St. Peter Canisius III solemn tone

P:        LU1432 (In medio LU1190)
O:        Mass XII LU48

4/29                Friday             6:00PM          Mass

St. Peter of Verona III solemn tone
P:        LU1436 (Protextísti me LU1146)
O:        Mass XII LU48

4/30                Saturday        1:00PM          Mass

St. Catherine of Siena III solemn tone
P:        LU1437 (Dilexísti LU1225)
O:       Mercadante

They are willing to arrange the musicians (who, in a city like this are available) and then spend the money.  They also have volunteers.  Some music is simple, some complex.  Some chant is now so familiar that all can sing.  Some is not and they listen… actively.  Some works, some doesn’t!  They keep moving forward and it is NOT DUMBED DOWN.

Over the years the congregation has grown amazingly, as has the congregation (250 yesterday, larger than any of the other Masses), thus creating a beneficial “circle of (liturgical) life”.

Some “creative destruction” is needed in our parishes to make room for new growth.

If you step out of your house and get into your car to drive some place, and you suddenly realize you are going in the wrong direction, do you still keep driving in the wrong direction? Or do you turn around, retrace your path, and go in the right direction?  In many places the wrong direction has been the aim for so long that the right direction is hardly to be imagined any more.

Without a revival of our sacred liturgical worship no true renewal of the Church, any sphere or sector of the Church’s life, is possible.

Everything starts with and comes back to and flows from our sacred liturgical worship of God.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    They are willing to arrange the musicians (who, in a city like this are available) and then spend the money.

    Good, that’s money well spent. Of course it depends on the complete package: Vienna has boatloads of beautiful music at Mass in a host of churches – no shortage of musicians there! – but isn’t exactly a hotbed of orthodoxy. It’s a necessary, but not a sufficient condition.

    It also makes me wonder what to do in the reverse situation: in our parish, our choir has deteriorated, most notably down to 3 voices rather than 4. We’ve spent money in ordering new Mass compositions that fit the current structure (there are few available); on the whole the results are mixed – sometimes great, and then there’s what I call ‘The Blitzkrieg Gloria’.

    Let’s hope not, but what if we cannot, in the future, get a proper choir formed from parishioners? Should we hire those too? Even when that almost surely means the signing will be done by non-Catholics? It is prayer after all…. Hard choices.

  2. Stephanus83 says:

    I recently visited a parish in Virginia while traveling and witnessed the difficulty of changing musical practices. At Easter, the pastor started singing the Gloria, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei in Latin. When I visited, I heard an apology from the Pastor because some members of the congregation complained. I was very happy to hear him say he was sorry they were unhappy, but we are Roman Catholics and Latin is the language of the church. He said the parish had already bought the hymnals and should learn all of the mass settings.

    I honestly can’t imagine someone complaining about the Gloria in Latin. Also, the Pastor who was making these changes is very young. That was a good sign.

  3. benedetta says:

    The faith passes by way of the family, and I think that the domestic church, with the initiative of moms and dads, is the place where we learn how to pray. We cannot learn to pray properly if we do not have some rudimentary musical training and the place to receive this is in the home starting from earliest years. One does not have to set the bar at “college scholarship for music” for this to work. Nor does one have to invest terrific sums in lessons — families could pool resources and hire someone to work with a small group to keep fees down, just one option. Perhaps it is counter-intuitive in these times, when we are crazy prepping for end times and/or living partisan political action as religion or the next best thing, but, especially in times such as these, music, which gives joy and praise to our Creator, is a necessity. The schools have kind of dropped the ball on it in many respects. Just like the loss of good literature on school reading lists, beautiful music in a lot of places in school systems has been neglected or abandoned. I think that if you want your child to grow to be able to pray properly and contribute to the vitality of the life of the Church, then, provide basic music education, and if no one is giving it to them, find a way to provide it yourself.

  4. Phil_NL says:


    Respectfully, but I think I’m the living proof that this is not the case, having had no instruction in music whatsoever. Weekly attendance at church, provided the church has something that isn’t toe-curling, is quite sufficient.

  5. Mike says:

    Anyone who heard me stagger through yesterday’s Propers might beg to differ, but two years of singing with traditional scholas in my area have convinced me that our musical patrimony is an indispensible element of the foundation from which the Church must be rebuilt.

    Chant cleanses the soul of its conceits (including, but by no means limited to, late-20th-century bilge), allowing God to act upon and through us for the glory of His Kingdom.

  6. benedetta says:

    Phil, Well, that is one huge proviso! I do not think it possible to agree that the music has not been toe curlingly bad, for the vast majority, for decades. And when it’s not bad it’s a performance by performers, not really prayer with active participation of the people. But if we want chant, schola, good music, beyond what’s going on now,going as Fr. Z says no longer actively in the wrong direction but actually changing direction and going forward, it’s not enough to leave it to fate or whatever any longer. This is an area that families can step up on without a lot of effort, for their own goods and the good of the church. I am sure there are a lot who can say “I had zero musical training and I turned out OK”, and that’s all well and good, but, if we want more and better than what we’ve got, then, we can’t just leave it at that any longer.

  7. Hidden One says:

    It seems to me that in many places an inadequate amount of time and energy has been put into training priests and seminarians in chanting, in both Latin and the relevant vernacular(s). A priest who chants well leads by example; he can also help teach others.

    And when he calls the guitar choir’s bluff, he can chant the appropriate parts of the ordinary a cappella in their absence. A priest who can chant has a tremendous advantage in reforming his parish’s music.

  8. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Vatican II says that every parish is supposed to provide singing instruction to the people, and teach them the Latin responses too.

  9. Gregorius says:

    For those on the ground who want to organize good choirs for their parishes, about how much would it be to organize a good choir for one special Mass? Or at the very least, what costs should be taken into account?

  10. PTK_70 says:

    I much appreciate Fr Z’s insistence on a rehabilitation of (the practice/application/use of) the Roman Rite.

    I also appreciate and respect Pope Francis for “daring to do as much as he is able” to lead (prod?) the Church down the path of mercy.

    Especially now, both are needed, no? Right worship and the mercy which heals.

  11. Chaswjd says:

    If we believe as did Aquinas, that worship is a matter of justice (giving God his just due as creator and redeemer), then finding resources to enable us to give Him the best in worship ought to be a priority.

    Indifferent or worse music should be banished from the liturgy.

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