ASK FATHER: Why not St. Louis Jesuit Music at Traditional Latin Masses?

From a reader…


What’s wrong with the St Louis jesuits?

A Director of Music for a Latin Mass community once said that, with regards to hymns, what we sing now as traditional hymns was once new and modern at the time. In fact many of our beloved Marian Hymns were once the equivalence to the St. Louis Jesuits. This leads me to wonder, what’s wrong about introducing stuff like the St. Louis Jesuits into the EF if it’s well-discerned and the song’s words are scriptural?

What’s wrong with the St Louis Jesuits?  Nothing.  As they say, their music isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds.

Really, the thought of this stuff during a TLM brought an audible chuckle.

There is a good book which explains something of the phenomenon of the bad music that has so tormented the Church since the Council was misappropriated.

Check out Thomas Day’s Why Catholics Can’t Sing: Revised and Updated With New Grand Conclusions and Good Advice


Part of the problem was that, after the Council was hijacked and a false interpretation was imposed on liturgical reforms by a small group of modernists who had control of social communication back in the day, Latin was sidelined and all but banned.  Indeed, it was illicitly forbidden in many places.   That slammed the door on the Church’s vast treasury of Church music without anything to ready to fill in.  Nature abhors a vacuum.  Alas, people with the lowest musical skills started to fill in the vacuum, producing “music” that was neither artistic or sacred, and played on instruments entirely lacking a sacred idiom or body of compositions (guitars, pianos, drum sets… and don’t forget tambourines!).   Coupled with a complete lie about the purpose of sacred music, perpetrated by an advisory board on music of the committee for liturgy of the US bishops (that music was intended to produce a human experience), we got the so-called “hootenany” Mass and the rest began to spiral around the bowl on the way down.

Day also describes how the sickly sweet Irish song influenced what was sung in churches.  Many of the clergy who came to these USA from Ireland had zero sense of sacred music because they had zero chances to develop that sense under the thumb of anti-Catholic society they left.  There was no traditional of Church music or large choir tradition.  They did know their sickly sweet songs from the pub and field, however.  That’s why so many of the ditties that passed into hymnals sound like “I’ll Taaaaaake You Home Agaaaaain Kathleeeeeeen”.  (“Mother Deeeeeearest Mother Faaaaaaaairest….”) Not their fault, of course.  But they, speaking English, came to dominate the clergy over and above other imigrants from German, France, etc., who did have a huge heritage of church music.  If you look at church’s built in a certain era, you can see the differences.  German church’s tended to have big choir lofts and organs, while Irish churches didn’t.  Anyway, the influences and roots of the problem are manifold, but that’s part of the picture.

St. Louis Jesuits at a TLM.  LOL!

And so…

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Gab says:

    If it’s not appropriate at the foot of the Cross, it’s not appropriate at Mass.

  2. I once heard a priest say: when the sun of culture is low on the horizon, even dwarfs cast long shadows.

  3. ex seaxe says:

    Almost spot on Father. But I don’t understand your comment about anti-Catholic society; surely Dr John Charles McQuaid, Archbishop of Dublin, ruled both church and state with an iron fist until 1973. Many would say that it was his influence that kept the lid on the cesspool of abuse which has only recently been uncovered. Please noteI am NOT saying that he was responsible for any abuse, but for the climate in which the authority of priests and religious could not be questioned, even by the police.

    [Reread and consider the period I was writing about.]

  4. Hidden One says:

    If it’s “well discerned”, it won’t be added.

  5. CasaSanBruno says:

    Why not their music? For the same reason we use vigil lamps and not lava lamps.

  6. APX says:

    Come on now. Let’s be fair. Generally speaking, no one would ever play City of God on guitar at Latin Mass. They’d use an organ.

    Minus the terrible stop used for the melody (I know of no instrument that sounds like that), it’s pretty good and traditional sounding. I think it would make a great recessional.

    Now, Marty Haugen at Latin Mass- that just sounds formaggio.

  7. Patrick71 says:

    I was raised on the new music in the 70s and 80s and the songs hold many fond memories for me. It is impressive how much scripture is reflected in those guitar hymns. I still sing these songs as an adult as I’m driving to work or around the house. I think they also make wonderful campfire songs or songs to sing to small children. BUT they now sound awful, dated, and inappropriate to me at mass. I cannot imagine them used at the TLM.

    I don’t think there needs to be a huge push to see a rediscovery of our musical tradition. I am confident that as more and more people are exposed to the TLM (thank you, Pope Benedict!) they will begin to ask why they dont sing such beautiful music in their own parishes. (Mutual enrichment?) And to be fair, if my mother can be considered a reliable source, the music in most parishes immediately pre-Vatican II wasn’t all that beautiful.

  8. Charles E Flynn says:

    The music used at the typical Novus Ordo mass is music that no person would purchase on CD or via download, and listen to for their own enjoyment and edification. Not only has the music not gotten better over time, in some places, the performance style is more operatic, breathy, and “gay” than ever.

    I find all of this music rammed down our throats since the 1960s to be junk. I often try to see why the music could not have been used to dramatize a shuttle launch, with lyrics such as:

    Solid rocket booster cameras have been activated.
    Sound suppression water system has been armed.
    No birds observed in the immediate vicinity of the flight path.
    Final check of the SRB commands.
    SRB joint heaters being turned off.
    Liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen fill and drain valves are being closed.
    [different voice] (inaudible) for auto-sequence start.
    Handoff…handoff to Atlantis has occurred from the ground launch sequencer.
    Nozzle check of the SRBs.
    Firing chain is armed.
    Sound suppression water system armed.
    0:10 (hydrogen burn-off igniters are started)

  9. APX says:

    The music used at the typical Novus Ordo mass is music that no person would purchase on CD or via download, and listen to for their own enjoyment and edification.

    On the contrary, I have several of the St. Louis Jesuits’ songs on my iPhone, along with Michael Joncas, Marty Haugen (admittedly more for comic relief whilst driving for Marty Haugen), Ray Repp, Tom Conry (again, comic relief), Gregory Norbet, etc. I find them nostalgic and help me to remember the psalms and other parts of scripture.

  10. In spite of the understandably humorous answers here by Father and commenters [which I totally GET!!], the questioner hasn’t received a real answer to the question.
    Unfortunately the serious real answer is REALLY long.
    I am trying to think of a respectful and succinct answer.
    I was raised singing chant, I have a deceased relative who was Ward’s protege and assiduously taught Gregorian chant to children in France. A violin virtuoso to boot. Some other relative wrote a book on violin theory. In spite of my early environment, I ended up singing for, gosh, almost 30 years in New Mass diocesan choirs. A soloist. All that – I was totally into it and dedicated. Because of the dear priests and dedicated directors, I was spared the worst of the modern music. The New Mass is how I learned the rudimentary Missa de Angelis and other simple Latin prayers. I got into many discussions about the correctness of liturgical music with fellow singers – I was extremely confused and had forgotten my early impressions. But somehow I knew there was something wrong with the worst music. There was some truth to what was ‘correct’ and what wasn’t but I couldn’t find the answer on proving WHY.
    So I ‘get’ the confusion of those that ask: what’s wrong with modern stuff at the TLM?
    I read Encyclicals, putting details into spreadsheets. I studied the White List and the Black List, and got the gist of what was wrong with emotionally-based hymns by the pattern in rejected works on the Black List. I read what I could find about music history. I attended Gregorian chant classes. A dear friend in one of these parish choirs explained rudiments of reading square notes to me. In spite of music giants in my family, dopey me, I was abysmally ignorant about what really constituted Catholic music.
    If you really want to understand Catholic Liturgical music, really, you have to teach yourself from the most traditional Catholic sources you can find. We are really truly living in the ruins of the Catholic Church, and no matter our background, its every man for himself in discovering What She Taught!

    The music at Mass is supposed to be the prayers of the Mass, words of the priest, put to music [thus the Introit and all that are set to music as chant];
    Music at Masses such as hymns are nothing but replacements for these prayers;
    Hymns crept into Mass at the Reformation as a backwash from what the Protestants were doing;
    The Protestants had ONLY music and preaching after throwing out the sacraments so there was no place for the Introit, Collect, Secret, Offertory, Communion, and Post-Communion – for them the ‘service’ became about the music [note how choirs went to the front of the church, after the Tabernacle was tossed, with big organs – again…its all they had!];
    At the point of all the nonsensical music coming into Mass at the Reformation, the Church actually FORBID hymns, forcing the proper music which was the return to singing the parts of the Mass and words of the priest;
    All the old devotional hymns some of us know and love were for processions, novenas, public prayers…not for Mass!
    There were actual Church musicians called Musicologists [akin to the tyrannical ‘liturgists’ of many butts of jokes] who dedicated their lives after degrees, studies, piles of books in libraries, years of meetings, love of the correctness of what belonged at a Mass —welp, those are ALL GONE and we are rudderless in liturgical music but they are the ones that gave us the rules we have left of what is appropriate at Mass [no solos, no opera pieces, no singing In Persona Christi, no common vulgar street songs, at the most basic…];
    Eventually Catholics had a mix of hymns and chant..what many know as the ‘four-hymn-sandwich’ 1. comin’ in song, 2. offertory, 3.communion, and the 4.goin’ out song.
    Up until the 60s, priests assiduously followed the restrictions on allowed hymns …then all Hell broke loose and music became very loose. and we have the chaos of today. Solos. Bad texts. Horrible melodic lines. Catholic music authors are disregarded. No regard to the theme of the days Mass [or its propers of the day]. Songs “about me”. Smarmy emotional junk. a free-for-all.
    The St. Louis Jesuits are another symptom of musical chaos. As much as the SLJs are derided, there are some hymns that are okay, melodic and accurate Scriptural texts. a few. Most of them are horrible. Not to mention that the personal lives of the authors are scandalous. Their songs don’t belong at the TLM anymore than any other loosey-goosey hymn.
    I will admit that going to the TLM now for years, I do miss singing devotional hymns. Only listening to chanters does not allow the participation, even in chants that I now know, that I believe I am due. Really, we aren’t meant to sit at Mass like its a concert. The Mass is the public prayer of the Church. but..that’s another thread… Nope, we don’t have sodalities, public prayers, novenas, prayer groups, processions, May crownings …all that , that gave the laity ample opportunity to sing prayerful hymns to God.

    So I ‘get’ the yearning to sing in prayer. At the old Mass the new stuff isn’t appropriate -sheesh that crap isn’t appropriate anywhere – maybe in a bar, maybe in the car – but where CAN we sing the good stuff? For now, I guess its just for angels.
    Pray for the exaltation and freedom of Holy Mother Church…maybe at the Restoration her children may once again sing full-throated, beautiful, right hymns to Her glory.

  11. rcg says:

    When I hear this song, and others like it, I think of the movie “A Mighty Wind”. It is just as gloriously bad but in a totally self-conscious way. From Second City TV alums it is an inoculation against the real songs.

  12. FromVicBC says:

    I grew up with the Canadian Catholic Book of Worship. There is the odd song that I like, but I always hated the hokey music in church (a guitar? really?) and usually refused to sing. I moved to the Caribbean and the songs in the Catholic church are very up tempo and reggae like, but it was better because EVERYONE sings and gets into the music.

    When I came back to Canada and finally joined a church I joined an Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter ( The choir (all 4 of them) sing traditional Latin and some high Anglican hymns. They are so good they made me cry the first few masses I attended. There is nothing quite like choir music to bring ones mind into proper reverence. It still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up when they sing the Kyrie.

    I’ve been listening to this non-stop for weeks. I can’t get enough of it:
    Kyrie: Orbis Factor, medieval chant of the Gradual of Eleanor of Brittany

  13. GM Thobe says:

    I don’t think I’ll ever listen to “contemporary ” church music without a smile now thinking about it not being “as bad as it sounds”. Pure gold on that line.

  14. Gab says:

    I’ve experienced the NO mass and the frequent John Denver and Glen Campbell songs substituted for hymns. After now attending TLM for many months, I can’t say I ever yearned for the Denver/Campbell songs at Mass.

  15. Steve L. says:

    There is always the Latin translation of Gather Us In (Congrega Nos):

    “Best” of both worlds?


  16. APX says:

    There is always the Latin translation of Gather Us In (Congrega Nos):

    Yes! And for the Postlude, there’s the Toccata on Gather Us In. Sadly no fugue. :(
    And here’s another one some guy performed at Mass.

  17. eamonob says:

    Any sing where we sing about ourselves is a no-go for Mass.

  18. Arele says:

    Omygosh, this is an awesome summary, Tina. Thanks! As a relatively new Catholic (under ten years) and a singer and musician, I was shocked and appalled at the music when I entered the church. That sent me on a years long process of study to discover and discern what the music at mass is supposed to be and I have come to many of the same conclusions that you have summarized here. Well done!

    It is up to God where we end up, but yes, we have truly lost our moorings and are now in unchartered waters with no one at the helm. But I trust God has a Plan. Let’s pray for it!!

    Thanks again!

  19. The Masked Chicken says:

    Tina in Ashburn wrote:

    “There were actual Church musicians called Musicologists [akin to the tyrannical ‘liturgists’ of many butts of jokes] who dedicated their lives after degrees, studies, piles of books in libraries, years of meetings, love of the correctness of what belonged at a Mass —welp, those are ALL GONE and we are rudderless in liturgical music but they are the ones that gave us the rules we have left of what is appropriate at Mass [no solos, no opera pieces, no singing In Persona Christi, no common vulgar street songs, at the most basic…];”

    There are some musicologists still around. The term is used, at least nowadays, to refer to someone who has a Masters or Ph.D in music history, although the original use of the term, Musikwissenschaft, by Guido Adler in the 1880’s, was much broader and referred to the scientific study of music, so encompassed not only historical musicology, but also, acoustics, aesthetics, psychoacoustics, etc. (so called systematic musicology), and the latest fad – ethnomusicology. I would be classified in the historical/systematic side of things.

    As far as congregational singing is concerned, one must remember that this is relatively new in the life of the Catholic Church. The schola concept is quite old, going back to the Fourth Century, although getting a real foothold about 200 years later, but until very late, about 1700, in fact, music was seen as a distinct function of office holders in the Church – either professional musicians or monks/clergy. Much of the early music for the Church, until about 1000 A. D. was monophonic chant or chant-like-based music and was almost never sung by the laity or at least those outside of defined Church positions. Polyphony came starting about 1050 A. D. and polyphonic motets (the Medieval type, not the later Renaissance type) by about 1100 A. D. The first polyphonic Mass was by Machaut in the middle 1300’s. These were all sung by professed or professional people (children were considered professional singers at an early age).

    Although these types of songs are called hymns, loosely, the actual development of hymnology implies congregational singing, which is a Protestant development. Since they held the concept of the universal priesthood of believers without the differences in ontology between priest and laity in Catholic theology, it was more natural that what was once reserved to the professed moved on to the congregation-at-large. The early hymns were the monophonic chorals developed by Luther in the early 1530’s, which would become harmonized into three part chorals towards the 1560’s, if memory serves. These would expand to four-part hymns by the early 1600’s.

    Interestingly, little is said during the Council of Trent specifically about music [see: Church Music and the Council of Trent, K. G. Fellerer, The Music Quarterly, XXXIX, Issue 4, 1953, which may be found, online]. In the 22nd Session, Sept. 10, 1562, under the title: Decree concerning the things to be observed, and to be avoided, in the celebration of the Mass, paragraph 2 is written:

    “They shall also banish from churches all those kinds of music, in which, whether by the organ, or in the singing, there is mixed up any thing lascivious or impure; as also all secular actions; vain and therefore profane conversations, all walking about, noise, and clamour, that so the house of God may be seen to be, and may be called, truly a house of prayer. ”

    The rest of the regulation of music was left to provincial councils (24th Session):

    “In choirs instituted for psalmody the name of God should be praised reverently, distinctly, and with devotion in hymns and chants … As to other matters which aim at a proper regimen in divine offices, and points concerning the appropriate usage of singing or modulating . . . and concerning a fixed rule for assembling and remaining in the choir, and likewise points concerning the entire ministry of the Church, a provincial synod of such a character shall prescribe afixed formula for each in accordance with the needs and customs of each province.”

    There is a myth that the composer, Palestrina, saved polyphony, when Pope Pius VI was going to outlaw it. Outlawing polyphony was not really on the table, but the Missa Papae Marcelli was played before the Pope (not the Council) and may have has a salutary influence on allowing polyphony a place in the Church. Obviously, there were many polyphonic compositions suitable for Mass already in existence, but these were sung by professional choirs.

    There is no mention of the laity singing in any of these decrees, but. rather, that the music should penetrate to the heart of the listener. This is the proper take on active participation – letting the liturgical action penetrate to the heart. By the early 1800’s, where the practice started, I do not know, “hymn” singing began to become congregational singing in Catholic Churches – or at least singing along with the choir. Most of the melodies were borrowed from German sources, with the texts being based on traditional Catholic settings. The schola or choir still had pride-of-place and often sang pieces by themselves. In fact, as late as 1903, in Tra Le Sollectudini, Pope pius X would write:

    “12. With the exception of the melodies proper to the celebrant at the altar and to the ministers, which must be always sung in Gregorian Chant, and without accompaniment of the organ, all the rest of the liturgical chant belongs to the choir of levites, and, therefore, singers in the church, even when they are laymen, are really taking the place of the ecclesiastical choir. Hence the music rendered by them must, at least for the greater part, retain the character of choral music.”

    “13. On the same principle it follows that singers in church have a real liturgical office, and that therefore women, being incapable of exercising such office, cannot be admitted to form part of the choir. Whenever, then, it is desired to employ the acute voices of sopranos and contraltos, these parts must be taken by boys, according to the most ancient usage of the Church.

    14. Finally, only men of known piety and probity of life are to be admitted to form part of the choir of a church, and these men should by their modest and devout bearing during the liturgical functions show that they are worthy of the holy office they exercise. It will also be fitting that singers while singing in church wear the ecclesiastical habit and surplice, and that they be hidden behind gratings when the choir is excessively open to the public gaze.”

    There is no mention of congregational singing.

    Even as late as 1955, Pope Pius XII would write in, Musicae Sacrae Disciplina:

    “46. We are not unaware that, for serious reasons, some quite definite exceptions have been conceded by the Apostolic See. We do not want these exceptions extended or propagated more widely, nor do We wish to have them transferred to other places without due permission of the Holy See. Furthermore, even where it is licit to use these exemptions, local Ordinaries and the other pastors should take great care that the faithful from their earliest years should learn at least the easier and more frequently used Gregorian melodies, and should know how to employ them in the sacred liturgical rites, so that in this way also the unity and the universality of the Church may shine forth more powerfully every day.

    47. Where, according to old or immemorial custom, some popular hymns are sung in the language of the people after the sacred words of the liturgy have been sung in Latin during the solemn Eucharistic sacrifice, local Ordinaries can allow this to be done “if, in the light of the circumstances of the locality and the people, they believe that (custom) cannot prudently be removed.”[21] The law by which it is forbidden to sing the liturgical words themselves in the language of the people remains in force, according to what has been said.

    64. As we have written above, such hymns cannot be used in Solemn High Masses without the express permission of the Holy See. Nevertheless at Masses that are not sung solemnly these hymns can be a powerful aid in keeping the faithful from attending the Holy Sacrifice like dumb and idle spectators. They can help to make the faithful accompany the sacred services both mentally and vocally and to join their own piety to the prayers of the priest. This happens when these hymns are properly adapted to the individual parts of the Mass, as We rejoice to know is being done in many parts of the Catholic world.”

    Pride of place was still given to the Choir, although limited use of hymn singing by the congregation outside of the Solemn High Mass was envisioned.

    Vatican II changed a few things. In Musicam Sacram, they, again, maintain, as Fr. Z. has said, repeatedly, that active participation is, primarily, internal:

    “15. The faithful fulfil their liturgical role by making that full, conscious and active participation which is demanded by the nature of the Liturgy itself and which is, by reason of baptism, the right and duty of the Christian people.13 This participation

    (a) Should be above all internal, in the sense that by it the faithful join their mind to what they pronounce or hear, and cooperate with heavenly grace,14

    (b) Must be, on the other hand, external also, that is, such as to show the internal participation by gestures and bodily attitudes, by the acclamations, responses and singing.15

    The faithful should also be taught to unite themselves interiorly to what the ministers or choir sing, so that by listening to them they may raise their minds to God.”

    However, it did relax the focus on trained music belonging to trained choirs, while still retaining its pride-of-place:

    “16. One cannot find anything more religious and more joyful in sacred celebrations than a whole congregation expressing its faith and devotion in song. Therefore the active participation of the whole people, which is shown in singing, is to be carefully promoted as follows:

    (a) It should first of all include acclamations, responses to the greetings of the priest and ministers and to the prayers of litany form, and also antiphons and psalms, refrains or repeated responses, hymns and canticles.16

    (b) Through suitable instruction and practices, the people should be gradually led to a fuller — indeed, to a complete — participation in those parts of the singing which pertain to them.

    (c) Some of the people’s song, however, especially if the faithful have not yet been sufficiently instructed, or if musical settings for several voices are used, can be handed over to the choir alone, provided that the people are not excluded from those parts that concern them. But the usage of entrusting to the choir alone the entire singing of the whole Proper and of the whole Ordinary, to the complete exclusion of the people’s participation in the singing, is to be deprecated.

    In sum, without getting into the underlying reasons for the greater provision of congregational singing after Vatican II (which can become contentious), while the singing of hymns among the faithful has greater latitude in the Novus Ordo Mass, such songs as by the St. Louis Jesuits completely violate the directives on music in use for the Tridentine Mass, as the use of the melodies are too closely related to secular folk music. There would have been rioting had the organ intoned, The City of God, in a 1940 Latin Mass.

    The Chicken

  20. Shonkin says:

    Re the Schutte “hymn” — oh ick!
    That kind of (un)sacred music has infested almost every parish where I’ve attended Mass, since the 1970’s. It’s time to bury it all (the way they buried the old Novus Ordo Lectionary in our parish cemetery when the newer translation was FINALLY adopted).

  21. MmeScherzo says:

    For a song that starts: Awake from your slumber, Arise from your sleep, it promptly put me back to sleep. My yawns were turbed into snoring.

  22. bobk says:

    Oh gee, this reminds me of Episcopalian days. When Gerald Ford was president and the folk mass was hot stuff. In particular I once was very fond of “It’s A Brand New Day” by the Jesuits. Then someone in I knew in the Orthodox CHurch who had never been Episcopalian described hearing it. She said there was this thing they sang at a Catholic Mass she attended. The song…Said nothing. About anything. It was “Don’t Worry Be Happy”. I realized what I’d like for years was rhythm and tempo, not worship. Kindergarten lyrics. Crazy stuff, good to outgrow. But so very many people have never outgrown it, that music is the high water mark of their experience of worship. The taste of the 13 year old still expressed by the 60 year old. It’s very hard to break out.

  23. Emilio says:

    “Why Catholics Can’t Sing” is so brilliant, that it should be required reading of any cradle Catholic or convert entering the Church… or of anyone wishing to understand our the crises since the Council, which are primarily due to the demolition of our Divine Worship. It’s been 20 years since I read it, and definitely need to reread it.

  24. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: real folk Irish hymnody… Well. We don’t have much of it. Or rather, most of it was composed in Gaelic, and was sung for things like wakes or on solemn feasts. So if you knew Gaelic and you knew somebody super-devout with a good memory, and you got invited to the praying all night part of a wake, you would hear things like the Lament of the Three Maries.

    There were also things like the Wexford carols or Patrick Dunn’s songs in Gaelic, which were written didactically by priests or catechists, often to existing tunes that were fitting.

    A lot of this material may have been collected by Irish song collectors, or even by Scottish ones in Catholic areas. But it’s not really been recorded or distributed much, and certainly is not easily available outside Ireland. (Even secular songs in the sean nos Gaelic style are hard to get; and if you do get them, they usually don’t have lyrics or explanations. And the pronunciations and vocabulary will be in a different dialect than anything you know.)

    And then there’s whatever people came up with later, because they didn’t know the good old songs or they didn’t pay enough attention before the singers were dead in the Famine. The “whatever” was more likely to be to existing dance tunes or secular airs. You also get songs that are pretty globally Catholic, but are sung to different tunes in Ireland. But again, it is not easy to find this stuff out.

    So it’s not really fair to blame the Irish hymnody for this stuff. It’s the vacuum of hymnody that was a problem. (And holy crud, some of the hymns I’ve heard televised from official Irish Catholic events are even worse than here!! And then they sing in fake American accents!!! Argh!)

  25. profcarlos says:

    Whenever I see Americans complaining about their bad church music, I sigh and wish we had it as good as you do, down here in Brazil.

    St. Louis Jesuits at least made *music*. It’s good enough to listen to, having a beer on the porch and watching the sun set. Here in Brazil, on the other hand, we have *very bad* music, in all senses of the word. It not only is not fit for Mass, conducive to prayer, and so on, but it is plainly *bad* music. It’s sadder when you think that – just like the USA – we do have a tradition of very good music. Your bad church music is just bad for church, but is not bad as music, because it flows from that beautiful tradition of English and American folk music. Our, meanwhile, is a dumbed-down version of the worst music Brazil has to offer, as its composers apparently believe people are not smart enough to sing “difficult” stuff.
    And to make things worse still, every Lent there is a “Campanha da Fraternidade” (Fraternity Campaign), in which (mandatory) songs are sent to all parishes in the country, with lyrics (I won’t even start talking about them!) about that yeasr’s campaign theme. This year it was “Fraternity and Public Policies” (really), and this is the CF hymn:

    In regular NO masses, you’ll hear stuff like that: (offertory) (for the osculus pacem) (Gloria, with different lyrics, because why not?) (Sanctus, idem) (Our father, idem)

    Our liturgy has a few other “peculiarities”, as Eucharistic Prayer 5, which a priest friend of mine refers to as “the one that talks about wine and bread half an our after Consecration”. But I’m drifting out of the post’s theme.

  26. Chaswjd says:

    I cannot believe that people want this:

    When they could, with effort have this:

    Just before either would be sung, the priest says words to the effect of “We join with all the choirs of heaven as they sing . . .” Which version communicates that we are actually joining with the choirs of heaven?

  27. Alice says:

    Well, I don’t think there is any law forbidding the use of such as long as it is accompanied on the organ. Personally, I wouldn’t suggest it, though, since cleaning up the church after the congregation finished with the organist could be a real drag.

    My Dad and I enjoy a good guitar Mass for nostalgia every five years or so. By the end, though, we are both ready to get back on the wagon. I would agree with those who say that the St. Louis Jesuits are to Catholic music what the old St. Basil Hymnal was to Catholics of previous generations. It’s too bad that the American Catholics who spoke English (AKA, the Irish) had no tradition of liturgical music and used folk models for their devotional hymns. On the Continent things were different and vernacular hymnody was often based on liturgical texts. The tunes were based in the Classical tradition, which itself is rooted in the liturgy. It’s also too bad that the liturgical movement was hijacked at just about the point where many lay Catholics were really learning about the treasures of their liturgy. I listen to the music of Jehan Alain and think of what might have been.

  28. APX says:

    I cannot believe that people want this:
    My childhood! You just brought back so many memories! I remember being so proud of myself when I was 7 and I sat at the piano and figured out the melody and the chords to go along with it.

    I really miss the old Mass settings before Haugen and OCP came along.

  29. Semper Gumby says:

    “Day also describes how the sickly sweet Irish song influenced what was sung in churches. Many of the clergy who came to these USA from Ireland had zero sense of sacred music because they had zero chances to develop that sense under the thumb of anti-Catholic society they left. There was no traditional of Church music or large choir tradition. They did know their sickly sweet songs from the pub…”

    Our genial host speaks the truth here.

    Though, back in the day several buddies and I, a pint of Guiness in hand, serenaded our ladies with pub songs to win their admiration (er, maybe it was their consternation.)

    Regardless, we knew better than to form a Schola. It would have been a disaster of biblical proportions.

    Thanks for the articles Prof. Kwasniewski.

    FromVicBC: That’s a good one alright. Sometimes I’ll switch from Gregorian to Mozarabic chant, here is Beatus vir:

  30. APX says:

    We can’t forget the Rock ‘n Roll Mass. It even has the correct translation so we can still use it today!

  31. Gabriel Syme says:

    It is so true that, when the modernists chained up the Church’s unrivaled musical patrimony, all kinds of junk rushed to fill the void.

    The Church music I grew up with – at Church and Catholic school – was absolutely brutal.

    One hymn “One more step along with the world I go” is now learned by my infant daughters as a nursery rhyme, at their (secular) nursery school.

    One daughter just started singing it one day and all the horrid memories came rushing back – I was totally confused as to how she knew it, (not to mention disgusted), as it would never get a look in at the TLMs we attend. But it turns out that, to her, its just a nursery rhyme.

    Another hymn I recall was very sad, a real tear jerker. We sang it once during our Catholic primary school assembly and it was so feminine and soppy, the (largely female) faculty made us sing it again at the end of the assembly. I never knew the name, but for >25 years always remembered it as “the sad hymn”.

    Well, in my 30s I finally discovered that “the sad hymn” was not a hymn at all, but rather it was a soppy ballad called “The Streets of London” by a guy called Ralph McTell. Its about homelessness in London. Thanks You-Tube. (Our female teachers were great teachers, but they would compete to see whose class could produce the biggest load of soppy feminine rubbish for assembly.)

    I remember roaring and laughing upon finally discovering the real nature of this song, though I am not sure my moist eyes were purely down to mirth.

    My other memory was the “Christian Rock” music we got. Protestant rubbish, as was all the rest of it.

    If you had wanted to put people off the Church for life, you could scarcely have assembled a worse repertoire of music for that very purpose.

    It was so poor, in fact, that I am genuinely in two minds as to whether to even bother with Catholic schools for my children. While we naturally want to take our place in the Christian community, everything the schools offer seems to be at loggerheads with my goal of raising my kids to know and love the Catholic faith: embarrassingly poor music, banal liturgy, communion in the hand, ambiguous morality etc.

  32. APX says:

    In all seriousness, however, as a child I used to feel much empathy for the priest who got stuck singing the Jesuit Mass parts for the priest instead of the chants he would always sing when the choir wanted to “try out a new Mass setting”. I always felt they were below his dignity as a priest. Those Mass parts were terrible.

  33. eamonob says:

    *any song

  34. Toan says:

    “…what’s wrong about introducing stuff like the St. Louis Jesuits into the EF…”

    I’d say, St. Louis Jesuit music — which I hear not infrequently at my parish — is typically a poor imitation of 60s-80s pop music. Much of it sounds like it’s trying hard to evoke Peter, Paul & Mary. Do we still call Peter, Paul & Mary “modern” or “contemporary”? No, they belong in the “oldies” category. St. Louis Jesuit music is really more “Traditional Baby Boomer” music than anything else.

    Anyway, let’s say the words we’re planning to sing are beautiful, sacred, and timeless (e.g. scripture). We should set such words to music that attempts to be beautiful, sacred, and timeless, be it “modern” or “traditional”. I don’t get the sense that St. Louis Jesuit music makes such an attempt, though.

  35. catholiccomelately says:

    Thank you to The Masked Chicken for the references. So enlightening!
    And thank you to bobk ….. our Sunday 5pm service is full of those you describd: nostalgic 60+ year olds, still loving their teenage musical rebellion. Sigh.

  36. Charivari Rob says:

    I was chatting with my wife about the book, trying to remember if I had actually read it all or excerpted someplace. Certainly not any time recently. (She had read it all some years ago and is interested in what an updated edition will say)

    I recall seeing it at some point and thinking there were problems with the title. “Why Catholics Can’t Sing” doesn’t make sense – we certainly can, regardless of what some think. “Why Catholics Don’t Sing” would be a little better, being true in some places or times (but fortunately not in my general experience)

    It will be interesting to read this Thomas Day and get a sense of what he otherwise thinks of the Mass as an opportunity to be edifying – beautiful, uplifting, inviting, welcoming, etc… It caught my eye in someone’s comment or link that Day has long-standing connection with Salve Regina University in Newport and I wonder if he shares their attitude about such things.
    I used to help at an annual youth retreat – held for several years at Salve (among other spots). Beautiful location, nice campus, good people at the day-to-day level. The only drawback I ever recall there was that someone in the powers-that-be at the University decided that the chapel (said to be beautiful) was off-limits and that we could have Mass in a very bland and generic lecture hall in one of the classroom buildings.

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