Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday Musings

A few random thoughts and ponderings to start the week...

Today is the Eve of all Saint's Day (All Hallow's Eve = Halloween). But it is also the anniversary of a famous (or infamous) event in Protestant history. On this day nearly 500 years ago, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany, sparking the Protestant Revolt (a.k.a. Reformation). Here is a piece written in 1995 by Protestant theology professor Stanley Hauerwas on the theme of "Reformation Day," as this day is called. It is a refreshing re-evaluation of the Reformation that boarders on "Catholic" in its approach.

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Sometimes when you hear of someone else's tragedy it reminds you of how lucky you are, and how insignificant your own problems are. I had a moment like that today.

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When I started doing these Monday Musings posts, I needed some way to separate each independent thought. So I always put three crosses + between each of thought. The crosses are separated by eight spaces. The three crosses represent the Trinity but also faith, hope, and love. The eight spaces are to symbolize joy and celebration, as in an "octave" celebration on the Liturgical calendar.

Maybe by doing this I'm over-thinking things a bit, but I like to do things with a purpose, and it seemed a fitting element to added to this blog. For Catholics, symbolism is a very important part of our faith, and I like utilizing that idea whenever an opportunity arises.

Friday, October 28, 2011

This Week's Headlines

 As another week comes to an end, this is your chance to top off your glass with a final helping of news, current events, and just plain interesting stuff that may not have made into the mainstream media. A chance to linger for a few more moments before we close the door on the week. Below are some links to articles, blogs, and miscellaneous happenings that caught my eye over the past few days. Sample what you like - I'll serve up more next Friday...

Can we hope that all men be saved? - "In any case, we cannot trust the speculations of the modern theologians, we must trust in the promise of Christ. And he never promised that all would be saved, he only said that we will be saved if we continue to follow him."

Reformation Day – and What Led Me To Back to Catholicism - "Although I am forever indebted to my Evangelical brethren for instilling and nurturing in me a deep love of Scripture, it was that love that eventually led me to the Church that had the authority to distinguish Scripture from other things."

Mea Culpa - "The new Confiteo is a refreshing antidote to the victim-entitlement poison. I beat my breast and say, 'My fault, my fault, my most grievous fault' and as I do I take responsibility for myself in a most solemn threefold vow of acknowledgement."

Government Greed Needs an 'Occupation' Too - "Solutions can be found not in centralized power and burdensome regulation, which facilitate and reward government greed, but in framing sensible laws and reinvigorating a culture of virtue in business and government alike."

The New Vatican Document on Finance: Right Diagnosis, Deadly Cure - "The Vatican seems to be growing in intellectual sophistication over worldly affairs. Now it gets economic matters half right. Sadly, being half right on something this important can lead to permanent calamity." Also this piece, and others below...
On Going the Way of World Government - "If the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is trying to make the Catholic Church sound as if she’s living in a fantasy world or trying to portray Catholic social teaching as completely irrelevant to real world problems, I’d say, 'Mission accomplished.'"

Just How "Major" Was Monday's Finance Document? - "...the document does not represent the Church’s teaching authority or Magisterium—at least the document as a whole does not. (It does contain quotations from other documents which do carry magisterial authority, and those passages carry the same authority as they had in their original context.)"

The new “white paper” from the Pont. Council Justice and Peace. [Fr. Z's rant] "...thanks be to God this 'white paper' (I won’t dignify it with 'document') doesn’t form part of the Holy Father’s Ordinary Magisterium."

Catholics, Finance, and the Perils of Conventional Wisdom - "For a church with a long tradition of thinking seriously about finance centuries before anyone had ever heard of John Maynard Keynes or Friedrich Hayek, we can surely do better."
The PCJP’s Vision of Polity: The Ideal vs. the Real - "This to me is the great failure of the document: It calls for an approach which is likely to be sensible only in an ideal world, and which is fraught with danger everywhere else."

Spare us from Vatican economic analysts - "...while economists are learning from the Vatican, perhaps the Vatican might learn a few lessons from economic analysts."

Profits Are For People - "The pursuit of profits forces producers to be attentive to the will of their customers, simply because the customer of, say, a supermarket can fire it on the spot by taking his business elsewhere."

Assisi Gives an Encore. But Revised and Corrected - "As a cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger did not participate in the encounter of Assisi in 1986. He never criticized it in public, but his absence was interpreted as a distancing of himself from the ambiguities that the initiative unquestionably produced, inside and outside of the Catholic Church."

Pepsi Shareholders Demand It Stop Using Aborted Fetal Cells - "As recently as May, Pepsi ignored concerns and criticism from dozens of pro-life groups and tens of thousands of pro-life people who voiced their opposition to PepsiCo contracting with biotech company Senomyx even after it was found to be testing their food additives using fetal cells from abortions."

Why It Matters that Kate Middleton Can Be Catholic Now  - "The change in the royal succession laws is good, in that it gets a blatantly anti-Catholic law off the books, and one that was causing heartburn as recently as 2007, with Blair's conversion.  But the sad reality is that this change is possible simply because religion of all sorts - Anglicanism, Catholicism, or theism in general - no longer seems to matter to the United Kingdom in the way that it once did."

The unintended consequences of socialist architecture - Opposition to post-war architecture tends to focus on aesthetic concerns... But its mostly deeply pernicious effect is surely the way in which it has affected people’s behaviour..."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Quote of the Week

"Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin Mary too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did. If anyone does not wish to have Mary Immaculate for his mother, he will not have Christ for his brother."
- St. Maximilian Kolbe

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Musings

A few random thoughts and ponderings to start the week...

I really do plan on writing more soon...but not this week. Kids are on fall break and I have some time off from work. I feel like being lazy, not writing.

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At our parish we've been trying some new musical settings for the new translation of the Mass. I must say, they are mediocre. Not that they are bad, per se, but they just sound like a re-hash of some of the same stuff we've heard before. Maybe some simple chant is all that's called for.

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I ordered a new Missal in preparation for the new translation. It is currently on back-order. When I receive it and get a chance to use it, I'll make a comment or two about the particular missal I bought. Different publication houses organize the contents differently. I didn't really look into the details of the missal I bought (I purchased it based on price and availability, so I know next-to-nothing about how the text is laid out); I'm anxious to see how I like using it.

Friday, October 21, 2011

This Week's Headlines

As another week comes to an end, this is your chance to top off your glass with a final helping of news, current events, and just plain interesting stuff that may not have made into the mainstream media. A chance to linger for a few more moments before we close the door on the week. Below are some links to articles, blogs, and miscellaneous happenings that caught my eye over the past few days. Sample what you like - I'll serve up more next Friday...
Heresy Gets Things Done - "Heresies have always been simpler and more persuasive than nuanced orthodox answers. Orthodoxy, like reality, is tediously complex when you try to account for all the details. Like math, it’s hard. Like surgery, it’s work..."

2012 is the “Year of Faith”…What Does It  Mean? - "According to Pope Benedict XVI, the 'Year of Faith' will officially begin on October 11, 2012 and will last until November 24, 2013."

Are the Gospels Myth? - "Christianity, more than any other religion, is rooted in history and makes strong—even shocking—claims about historical events, most notably that God became man and dwelt among us."

Does the Bible Prohibit Religious Images? - "Now, obviously, Protestants today aren't roving around destroying Catholic art. But iconoclasm has ongoing negative impacts."
Is Religion Relevant - "The problem with trendy vestments, and any other attempt to make the faith 'relevant' is that it is immediately out of date."
Are You a Nice Christian? - "Fact is, we don't know if they are or not, but we can see what they believe and how they behave and make some tentative judgements."

Pro-Lifers Urgently Need to Engage in the SEO War - [SEO = search engine optimization] "There needs to be a concerted effort in the pro-life movement to get our websites do better in online search results."

Evangelizing the Self-Satisfied Secularist - "It is not a very effective strategy for believers to tell the self-satisfied secularist that he is really unsatisfied, just not aware of it. It is far better to appeal to the unstable nature of human satisfaction, and the consequent human tendency to always yearn for more, even when we feel satisfied."

Rick Santorum: Disabled Children Have So Much to Teach Us - "As Santorum said this week, 'If it’s (the pro-life movement’s) not successful, we will lose the soul of the country.'"

John Paul II will soon be a saint  - "The second miracle attributed to the Blessed John Paul II, must be recognised by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on behalf of the deceased pope. The dossier of miracles attributed to Karol Wojtyla is constantly being updated with new testimonies."

Robert Downey, Jr. Asks Hollywood to Forgive Mel Gibson - "I would ask that you join forgiving my friend his trespasses and offering him the same clean slate you have me, allowing him to continue his great and ongoing contribution to our collective art without shame."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Quote of the Week

"There is one God and one Christ, and one Church, and one chair founded on Peter by the word of the Lord. It is not possible to set up another altar or for there to be another priesthood besides that one altar and that one priesthood. Whoever has gathered elsewhere is scattering."
- St. Cyprian

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday Musings

A few random thoughts and ponderings to start the week...

I've been a lazy blogger lately... I have no excuse. Hopefully, as the weather cools off and I spend more time inside, I'll have more time to write.

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I had a conversation recently about religion and politics. Someone suggested the faith should not be involved in people's political decision making because it violates the separation of church and state. There are many arguments against this fallacy, but during the course of our conversation I proposed the following:

There is no way to separate “faith” from political decision-making, because for most Americans there is no way to separate “faith” from “values/morality”. Our laws are by their very nature "moral" - through the power of "law" society imposes moral order. Since most people are religious or subscribe to some faith, it would be unfair to tell these religious people that they must make their value-decisions (when voting for a candidate or a ballot initiative, etc.) without utilizing their faith…you are telling people to jettison a part of who they are if they want to engage in politics. This has never been the case in American history…in fact I would argue that belief in a Creator is a foundational principle in this country.

Now certainly we cannot legislate *theology* or *doctrine*; we cannot establish a national *church*. I would submit to you that that what was meant by “separation of church and state” is that our government cannot dictate religious belief or require its citizens to subscribe to a particular faith. Specifically it means that the State (our government) is to remain separated from the Church (ecclesial bodies). And so we must consider that while “church and state” must remain separate, there can never be a separation of “faith and politics” nor did the Framers intend any such separation.

Friday, October 14, 2011

This Week's Headlines

As another week comes to an end, this is your chance to top off your glass with a final helping of news, current events, and just plain interesting stuff that may not have made into the mainstream media. A chance to linger for a few more moments before we close the door on the week. Below are some links to articles, blogs, and miscellaneous happenings that caught my eye over the past few days. Sample what you like - I'll serve up more next Friday...
A Letter to the Lazy - "Do something specific and constructive, and if you are willing to work as hard as the people on Wall Street, you might just accomplish something."

Belloc, Distributism and Political Power - "I can always find common ground with the Distributists I meet... But then there’s the question of centralized political power in the economy."

The New Missal Translation: Renewing Awe and Wonder - "The new translation affords us an opportunity to look at the words in the Mass and ask, 'How and why is this different?' I think if people do this, they will find that the new translation offers a great opportunity for deeper prayer and reflection."

Why Young Christians Leave the Faith - "We aren't losing a generation - they are lost. The question now is, what do we do about it?"

Why Teens Leave the Church – A New but Dubious Study? - [An analysis of the study cited in the article above.]

Answering Four Common Protestant Objections to the Papacy - "Andre, a Protestant on his way into the Catholic Church, recently had something of an exit interview with his former pastor. His pastor made some last-ditch attempts to scuttle Andre's belief in the papacy."

Reporters, Baptists, Romney & ‘cults’- "Journalists are going to have to get up to speed and learn how to tell the difference between bigoted believers who reject Mormons, period, and those who reject their theology, but are willing to work with them in the political arena. Otherwise, there is no way to make sense of these events."

Is Mormonism a Christian Denomination? - [Excellent overview of Mormon beliefs, including the Christian response to each error.]

Jehovah’s Witnesses Knock on the Wrong Door - "No one can change their beliefs on a dime. It takes time... It’s enough to present the truth and then let them see it as God helps them to understand."

Yes, Steve Jobs, R.I.P., was an innovating genius. But... - "Don't get me wrong: I fully recognize that Jobs was an innovating genius when it comes to technology and material things. But his perspective of the bigger picture was seriously lacking."

Large Group of Episcopalians Received Into the Church - "The ceremony seemed to have made a deep impression on many of those present. Two women clutching handkerchiefs admitted they had been moved to tears." See also this article which includes a few pictures: Episcopal parish in Bladensburg converts to Roman Catholic Church

Catholic-dudes, we need you - "Find the time to impress upon the younger men you encounter how fulfilled you are by being a faithful brother in Christ."

Capital Punishment Revisited - [An interesting compilation of essays for and against, from a Catholic perspective.]

Feel free to post more links in the comments section below...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Quote of the Week

"There is a sense that Christianity is only old hat. It’s been around for so long and so many people, cultures, and even civilizations have tried it. Yet, despite such endlessly common efforts, they seemed to have still fallen short. They didn’t produce the missing link, the holy grail, or that secret to life that makes sense of this mysterious existence. Christianity is just a worn out pair of shoes, used when useful and in the end 'found wanting.' That’s the common perception anyway. But it’s wrong.
"The truth is that the Christian life has largely 'been found difficult and left untried.' And because of that we’ve never actually experienced the fullness of the Christian ideal.
"There are some who have actually overcome the difficulties, given it a fair try and did not find it wanting at all. They’re called Saints. So before we go writing off Christianity as more of the same old hat, consider looking to the Saints and trying on a hat that you perhaps have never fully tried."
- G. K. Chesterton

Monday, October 10, 2011

Monday Musings

I read an article recently pertaining to the culture of the "new media." Specifically the author points to the fact that articles, blog posts, and other information found online is perceived to have a shelf-life - people assume that old news is no news; things from the past are not worth reading. This leads to a lack of appreciation for what has come before, and the inability to build upon a thought and elaborate on ideas. The new media is fast-paced, and so, readers are tuned into the new but forget about the old. People tend to read current content, but seldom access the archived posts or look beyond the main page of a site. The author suggested that we as readers should spend more time tapping into the archived posts of websites and thus engage in the web-culture more thoroughly and thoughtfully. As a blogger I intend to re-post articles from time to time so that readers are confronted with older posts that still have relevance.

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A few thoughts I recently shared with a friend concerning eccuminism:

...I think many people have placed false hope in the ecumenical movement of the past few decades. The reality is that having a dialog about what unites us is not productive unless we eventually face up to our disagreements as well. Ecumenism that ignores our differences is a sham and counter-productive. It does nothing to address the real problems at hand. If our ultimate goal is to repair a shattered Christianity (knowing that Christ prayed for Christian unity), then we cannot afford to be complacent and pacify ourselves with a partial unity.

Repairing this Christian division is like nursing a wounded body... The rest of the body may be healthy, but if we ignore the wound, if we focus on the healthy condition of the rest of the body and say that the injury does not matter as much, then the wound will fester and the patient is in a worse state than before. Like a physician, we must zero in on the injury. We cannot rejoice in the health of an injured body - but that is what this false ecumenism does. It says, "See, you have your legs and your arms, just ignore the gaping wound in your side." But to have an authentic ecumenism, the "wound" (i.e. our disagreement) is the most important thing we must focus on.

Also I would say this... From reading I have done, it seems that the official Catholic position is that true ecumenical dialog is only possible with specific Christian denominations - ones that have retained a certain ecclesial order, proper liturgical practices, and a recognizable hierarchical structure. So the scope of ecumenism is not as wide as many people think. Mainly we [as Catholics] must focus on the Orthodox, the Anglicans, some Lutherans, and a few others. Unfortunately, our differences with the other denominations really are so BIG that there is little chance of getting anywhere ecumenically. For one thing, many Christian denominations have no discernible hierarchy with which to dialog. They do not exist as a "church" properly speaking. They have rejected the very foundation of what makes "church" a true Body. And so, we cannot speak productively with a "body" that has no discernible form, a body that has no "head" with which to speak in return... The most we can do is point to the Truth of Catholicism and lead them home.

Friday, October 7, 2011

This Week's Headlines

As another week comes to an end, this is your chance to top off your glass with a final helping of news, current events, and just plain interesting stuff that may not have made into the mainstream media. A chance to linger for a few more moments before we close the door on the week. Below are some links to articles, blogs, and miscellaneous happenings that caught my eye over the past few days. Sample what you like - I'll serve up more next Friday...

Legislating the Constitution Down - "This is how America will fade away, not with bursting bombs or tidal waves, but with legislators and courts reshaping the notion of rights and entitlements until they become difficult to tell apart, and then deciding who gets to be who they are, and who must change or be ostracized."

The US bishops stick with a losing political strategy - "Faithful Citizenship does not draw the necessary, clear distinction between the issues on which good Catholics might disagree (such as economic policy) and those that are non-negotiable (such as abortion)—not to mention the distinction between issues on which prudent compromise is wise (economics again) and those on which compromise is odious (abortion again)."

Steve Jobs: the Edison of His Time - "There have been 54 million abortions since Roe v. Wade in 1973. We will never know have many of these lost children were other Steve Jobs."

"Darn Tootin'!" Obama Brags on His Thuggish Contraception Policy - "The proposed regulation, designed to implement part of Obamacare, will require all private health plans in the United States to cover sterilizations and all FDA-approved contraceptives—including those that cause abortions—without charging any fees or co-pay."

Don't Judge Parenthood by the First Six Years - "The misconception that parenting only gets harder as you have more children is especially dangerous these days, when permanent surgical sterilization is so easy to come by."

Polish Catholics see miracle in communion wafer - "The communion wafer in question developed a brown spot in 2008 after falling on the floor during a Mass in the eastern Polish town of Sokolka. Two medical doctors determined that the spot was heart muscle tissue, church officials have said."

Of Matters Liturgical - "It may seem a small thing to say “chalice” instead of “cup,” or “eternal” instead of “everlasting.” But the cumulative effect of these details is a subtly more elevated dignity and a proper distance from the everyday."

The rosary: To Jesus through Mary - "October is traditionally regarded as the month of the rosary.  During this month, the Church urges us to pray the rosary regularly and to reflect upon its mysteries."

Why I Pray Boring Prayers - "Just like always saying 'I love you' to our spouse no matter what mood we are in, perseverance in repetitious prayers like the Rosary can get us through the dry times in our spiritual life. But even more than that, I think we will find these prayers becoming the brick and mortar of beautiful inner chapels where we learn to walk and talk with God intimately, and at all times."

Exploring Four Myths About the Crusades - "...the usual pointing to this historical period with selective moral outrage, is a tired old attack on the Church, an attack, usually simplistic in its understanding, devoid of historical context, and quite one-sided."
What Does it Mean that the Gates of Hell Won't Prevail? - "The answer to that question has some pretty profound implications for how we understand the idea of Church..."

St. John Chrysostom and St. Augustine on Matthew 16:18 and the Papacy - [follow-up to above article] "In yesterday's post, I stated my intention to set the issue of whether or not Peter was the “Rock” in Matthew 16:18 aside to have a more fruitful discussion on Christ's promises in that passage. It didn't quite work out that way in the comments..."

10 Reasons To Come Back to the Catholic Church

 Feel free to post more headlines in the Comments below...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Liturgical Thoughts: Proper Worship Music

Music exists in many styles and genres, each suited to its own purpose. A musical style played outside of its appropriate context can be jarring, especially when unexpected. If we were to attend a symphony concert, a black tie affair at a grand concert hall, and instead of Beethoven or Mahler we heard the opening chords of a punk rock anthem echoing in our ears, we might certainly ask for our money back. If we attend a joyous gathering at a friend’s house expecting a light-hearted celebration, but from the stereo we hear the dark notes of a Mass for the dead, the mood would certainly be dampened and the guests would excuse themselves early.

We expect music to fit our mood; and music in turn can shape our mood. A good rock-n-roll or pop tune might liven up a party; soft jazz or an elegant orchestral piece can sooth an anxious mind; a hit from the past can evoke a sense of nostalgia. As with any art form, music carries with it an emotional force, a power to shape one’s attitude and to conjure up memories and passions. Music is as varied in its style as the human heart is in its ability to feel and to express its desires and longings. Music is indeed a powerful medium.

The music we encounter in our worship is no different. Some styles of music are particularly suited to elevate our hearts and minds to God. Good worship music is focused entirely on this purpose. We should not attend Mass expecting a rock concert or a 1960s-style folk revival. Yet, unfortunately, that is what is often presented as valid liturgical music in many parishes today. Since the radical experimentation of “liturgists” post Vatican II, many Catholics have become accustomed to the guitar-strumming, tambourine-rattling, “performances” (and I use the term in a derogatory way – no liturgy is designed to be a “performance”) that seem more like a protest sit-in than real liturgical accompaniment. Many parishes have even given the “band” a space on the altar where they really do “sit in” on the Mass and turn up their amps to drown out any prayer that might be going on.

This style of music often carries with it a cultural baggage that clashes with the solemnity and seriousness of the Mass. Every genre of music has its own particular history and cultural tale which has shaped its current form. And so, for example, the story of rock-n-roll, its path to popularity and the cultural setting in which it took shape, gives to it a certain expressive weight, which colors our emotions and taps into our subconscious when we hear it. A certain chord or a specific drum beat may evoke images of Chubby Checker or Led Zeppelin; we might recall a particular song that has a similar sound or a situation or lyric with which we are familiar; we connect the dots within that musical genre and we react accordingly. Musical styles draw out a certain emotion or awaken certain passions. This is a natural response to music (or to any type of art) and it is precisely why the right music ought to be used at Mass. At worship our minds should be elevated God, not dragged down to earthly things.

The Catholic Church has long held the belief that certain styles of music are simply not suited for liturgical use. Music can become tainted by the profane, imbued with a worldliness that draws our attention away from the divine. The Church loves and honors music and the arts, but art must be put to its proper use:

“The Church has always recognized and honored progress in the arts, admitting to the service of religion everything good and beautiful discovered by genius in the course of ages — always, however, with due regard to the liturgical laws. Consequently, modern music is also admitted in the Church, since it, too, furnishes compositions of such excellence, sobriety, and gravity, that they are in no way unworthy of the liturgical functions. Still, since modern music has risen mainly to serve profane uses, care must be taken that musical compositions in this style admitted to the Church may contain nothing profane, be free from reminiscences of theatrical motives, and be not fashioned, even in their external forms, after the manner of profane pieces." (Motu proprio of Pius X)

Modern music can certainly be employed for liturgical purposes, but the cultural baggage that necessarily accompanies modern music, the profane roots of modern musical styles, and the impulse among musicians to be true to their art, makes its liturgical use more problematic. Sitting through a Rock-Mass demonstrates how easily the Church’s warnings can come true. When the congregation knows to kneel only after the guitarist has finished his solo…it has gone to far.

Unlike modern music, sacred music has grown up in a setting that naturally directs it toward the divine. By utilizing this genre of music, the risk of profaning the Mass is practically eliminated. The Church has deliberately nurtured the development of sacred music for the purpose of liturgical worship:

"…under the sponsorship of the Church, sacred music, through the course of centuries, has traversed a long road by which, though sometimes slowly and laboriously, it has finally reached the heights: from the simple and natural Gregorian modes, which are, moreover, quite perfect in their kind, to great and even magnificent works of art which not only human voices, but also the organ and other musical instruments embellish, adorn and amplify almost endlessly. Just as this progress in the art of music shows clearly how dear to the heart of the Church it was to make divine worship more resplendent and appealing to Christian peoples, so too it made clear why the Church also must, from time to time, impose a check lest its proper purposes be exceeded and lest, along with the true progress, an element profane and alien to divine worship creep into sacred music and corrupt it." (Pope Pius XII in his encyclical, Musicae sacrae disciplina)

The Church has been vigilant over the centuries as she has safeguarded the integrity of Christian worship and promoted the solemn, reverent dignity of liturgical music… and then came Vatican II. As with many aspects of Catholic faith, the “spirit of Vatican II” has done much to wreck the worship of otherwise faithful Catholics. The profane has entered the sanctuary. But there are new winds blowing. The experimentations after Vatican II are giving way to a new understanding of what the Council actually said. And this includes its statements about sacred music:

“The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as sacred song united to the words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy…
“The treasure of sacred music is to be preserved and fostered with great care. Choirs must be diligently promoted, especially in cathedral churches; but bishops and other pastors of souls must be at pains to ensure that, whenever the sacred action is to be celebrated with song, the whole body of the faithful may be able to contribute that active participation which is rightly theirs…
“The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services. But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action…”
“In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church's ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man's mind to God and to higher things...”(Sacrosanctum Concilium)

The Church’s sacred music is a “treasure of inestimable value.” Has it truly been “fostered with great care” over the past few decades? Can we honestly say that Gregorian chant has been given “pride of place” when it is never heard sung in our churches today? Can we say that the pipe organ is “held in high esteem” when in reality it has been replaced by guitars and tambourines? Does our liturgical music of today “lift up man’s mind to God and to higher things,” or have we been dragged down to the level of secular entertainment?

The new Mass translation will surely spur Catholics into rethinking liturgical worship in all of its aspects, including sacred music. Among other things, the English words for parts of the Mass that are traditionally sung (such as the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei) will be changed so that new compositions must be produced, fitting the new words to new music. After Vatican II some composers took liberties with the words to these and other parts of the Mass, shaping the language to fit their musical tastes rather than staying true to the prayer and making the music bend in service to our worship. Rather than a liturgy that dictated the style of music, we had instead music that dictated the style of liturgy. Thus our liturgy has suffered. The new translation can help by reasserting the importance of the words over and above the musical accompaniment.

Many people may be offended to learn that some music is simply not appropriate for Catholic worship. Musicians who pour their efforts into a particular style of “worship music” will not welcome a change of style that effectively shuts them out of the liturgical music scene. But we all must remember the following:

 “As the sacredness of the liturgy has caused the Church to dictate to the priest, to the smallest detail, what vestments, words, vessels, and actions he should employ in the fulfilment of his duties — which regulations he may not disregard without sinning — so also the regulations concerning church music are binding on the singers [and musicians], whether the reasons for these regulations be understood by the individuals or not.” (Catholic Encyclopedia at under the entry for “Ecclesiastical Music)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Quote of the Week

"Idolatry is committed, not merely by setting up false gods, but also by setting up false devils; by making men afraid of war or alcohol, or economic law, when they should be afraid of spiritual corruption and cowardice."
- G.K. Chesterton

Monday, October 3, 2011

Monday Musings

A few random thoughts and ponderings to start the week...

Our parish is preparing for the new translation of the Mass, and this weekend we had a taste of how one facet of the liturgy that is seldom discussed will be affected. Because the words will be changed to prayers such as the Gloria and Sanctus, which are generally sung, new music must be composed and put into use. Our choir and organist demonstrated the new Gloria after Mass on Sunday for anyone who wanted to stay and listen. I'll be writing about music and the liturgy in an upcoming post.

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I overheard a conversation among some Protestant Christians asking one another which denomination they would join if their current denomination dissolved. Each gave their answers and also listed a few problems they have with their present church, and why they thought another tradition might be more to their liking. I was struck by the readiness they all had to "jump ship." They seemed to have given this some thought before the question was ever asked and could give ample justification for leaving their church behind. Many of these were ordained clergy, whom you would think would be more committed to their denomination. But I suppose they know the reality...Protestant churches always live on the brink of schism. They are born of schism and they bread more schism. As a Catholic, when asked, "What would you do if the catholic Church ceased to exist or was proven false?" I always respond, "I would be an atheist!" There is no other choice. Either God gave us the Catholic Church (and no other) or there is no God.