The Hidden Hand behind Bad Catholic Music

It usually starts with the missalettes — those lightweight booklets scattered around the pews of your parish church. They contain all the readings of the Sunday Masses, plus some hymns and responses in the back. There’s nothing between the covers that would offend an orthodox sense of the faith, and most of the songs are traditional by today’s standards.
So, what’s the problem?
Well, if your missalettes are like those issued in more than half of American parishes, they’re copyrighted by the Oregon Catholic Press (OCP) — the leading Catholic purveyor of bad music in the United States. Four times a year, it prints and distributes 4.3 million copies of the seemingly unobjectionable booklets (which OCP doesn’t call missalettes).
But that’s just the beginning of its massive product line, where each item is integrated perfectly with the others to make liturgical planning quick and easy. To instruct and guide parish musicians and liturgy teams, the OCP prints hymnals, choral scores, children’s songbooks, Mass settings, liturgy magazines (with detailed instructions that are slavishly followed by parishes around the country), and CDs for planning liturgies and previewing the newest music.
This collection of products, however, does not include a hymnal — or anything else — designed to appeal to traditional sensibilities (its Heritage Hymnal is deceptively misnamed). The OCP’s experts never tire of promoting the new, rewriting the old, and inviting you to join them in their quest to “sing a new church into being” (as one of their hit songs urges). The one kind of “new” that the OCP systematically avoids is the new vogue of traditional music that has proved so appealing to young Catholics.
The bread and butter of the OCP are the 10,000 music copyrights it owns. It employs a staff of 150, runs year-round liturgy workshops all over the United States, sponsors affiliates in England and Australia, and keeps song-writers all over the English-speaking world on its payroll. In fact, it’s the preferred institutional home of those now-aging “St. Louis Jesuits” who swept out the old in 1969 and, by the mid-1970s, had parishes across the country clapping and strumming and tapping to the beat.
The OCP also sails under the flags of companies it has acquired, established, or represented along the way: New Dawn Music, Pastoral Press, North American Liturgy Resources, Trinitas, TEAM Publications, White Dove Productions, and Cooperative Ministries. Every time it purchases — or assumes the distribution of — another publisher, its assets and influence grow.
Power Without Authority
But while the OCP dictates the liturgies of most U.S. parishes, it has no ecclesiastical authority. It’s a large nonprofit corporation — a publishing wing of the Diocese of Portland — and nothing else. It has never been empowered by the U.S. bishops, much less Rome, to oversee music or liturgy in American parishes.
The OCP’s power over Catholic liturgy is derived entirely from its copyrights, phenomenal sales, and marketing genius. Nonetheless, it wields the decisive power in determining the musical culture of most public Masses in the United States.
And once a parish dips into the product line of the OCP, it is very difficult to avoid full immersion. So complete and integrated is their program that it actually reconstructs the sense that the liturgy team has about what Catholicism is supposed to feel and sound like.
But few of those subject to the power of the OCP understand that it’s the reason why Catholic liturgy so often seems like something else entirely. For example, pastors who try to control the problem by getting a grip on their liturgies quite often sense that they’re dealing with an amorphous power without a name or face. That’s because very few bother to examine the lay-directed materials that are shaping the liturgies. Too many priests are willing to leave music to the musicians, fearing that they lack the competence to intervene.
Meanwhile, the nature of the OCP is completely unknown to most laypeople. Many Catholics shudder, for example, when they hear the words Glory & Praise, the prototypical assortment of musical candy that was already stale about 15 years ago but which mysteriously continues to be repackaged and rechewed in parish after parish. “Here I am, Lord,” “Be Not Afraid,” “City of God,” “One Bread, One Body,” “Celtic Alleluia,” and (wait for it) “On Eagle’s Wings” — these all come courtesy of the OCP.
But at the publisher itself, this moldy repertoire is not an embarrassment. On the contrary, the publisher brags that Glory & Praise, whose copyright it acquired in 1994, continues to be the best-selling Catholic hymnal of all time. And what about those prayers of the faithful that seem far more politically than doctrinally correct? They’re probably from the OCP, too. A new edition of its Prayer of the Faithful is printed every year. (In what is surely great news for the unrepentant, the OCP brags that the volume helpfully includes “creative alternatives to the Penitential Rite.”)
Hijacking Of Catholic Truth
It wasn’t always like this. Before 1980, the OCP was called the Oregon Catholic Truth Society. It was founded in 1922 in response to a compulsory school-education law that forced Catholics to attend public schools. Archbishop Alexander Christie got together with his priests to found the society. Its aim: to fight bigotry and stand up for truth and Catholic rights.
In 1934, the Oregon Catholic Truth Society released a missal called My Sunday Missal. It was good-looking, inexpensive, and easy to use. It became the most popular missal ever (you can still run across it in used bookstores).
But the rest of the story is as familiar as it is troubling. Sometime in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Oregon Catholic Truth Society began to lose its moorings. Catholic truth had to make room for the Age of Aquarius. Thus, in the course of a single decade, a once-reliable representative of Catholic teaching became reliably unreliable. Money given to the organization to promote truth was now being used to advance a revolutionary approach to Catholic life, one that repudiated traditional forms of the faith. The only thing that did not change was the breadth of its influence: Under the new dispensation, it was still a powerhouse of Catholic publishing.
De Profundis
If you’ve been keeping up with the OCP’s latest offerings, you know that the songs from the mid-1970s don’t begin to plumb the depths. The newest OCP hymnals are jam-packed with music from the 1980s and 1990s, with styles meant to reflect the popular music trends of the time. (Actually, they’re about five years behind the times.)
They sail under different names (Music Issue, Journeysongs, Heritage Hymnal, Glory & Praise), but the content is similar in all of them: an eclectic, hit-and-miss bag with an emphasis on new popular styles massaged for liturgical use. (Worst choice: Spirit & Song, which “encourages the youth and young adults of today to praise God in their own style.”)
Some of the newer songs sound like variations on the musical themes you hear at the beginning of TV sitcoms. Some sound like Broadway-style love songs. Others have a vague Hawaiian, calypso, or blues feel. You never know what’s going to pop up next.
Not all of it is terrible. In fact, there are some real toe-tappers among the songs. The question to ask, however, is whether it’s right for liturgy. The answer from the Church has been the same from the second century to the present day: The Mass requires special music, which is different from secular music and popular religious music. It must have its own unique voice — one that works, like the liturgy itself, to bring together time and eternity. It’s a style perfectly embodied in chant, polyphony, and traditional hymnody.
The OCP revels in its ability to conflate these categories; indeed, that’s the sum total of its purpose and effect. And judging from its newest new line of songs and CDs — “we just couldn’t wait until our next General Catalog to tell you about it” — your parish can look forward to a variety of ska and reggae songs adapted for congregational purposes.
How It Hooks You
But let’s go back to that innocent, floppy missalette. The OCP claims it has many advantages. Missalettes “make it easy for you to introduce the latest music to your parish, and changes in Church rituals are easy to implement.” Thus the missalette is “always up-to-date.”
It’s also quite a bargain. If you buy more than 50 subscriptions to the quarterly missalette, you receive other goodies bundled inside. You’ll get a Music Issue (the main OCP hymnal) to supplement the thin selection in the missalette. In addition, you’ll receive a keyboard accompaniment book, a guitar book, the Choral Praise Comprehensive, a handy service binder, two annual copies of Respond & Acclaim for the psalm and the gospel acclamation, biannual copies of Prayer of the Faithful, two subscriptions to Today’s Liturgy (which tells liturgy teams what to sing and say, when and how), and one master index. And the more you buy, the more you get.
Why would you want all this stuff? Well, if you’re in parish music, you’ll quickly discover that the missalette has too few hymns to cover the whole season. The Music Issue seems like an economical purchase. But there’s something odd about the OCP’s most popular music book: There’s no scriptural index. How do you know what hymns fit with what gospel reading?
No problem. Just buy a copy of Today’s Liturgy, which spells it all out for you. If you want a broader selection of possible hymns, you can also order the OCP’s LitPlan software or its monthly Choral Resources, which is visually more complicated than the Federal Register (but still contains no scriptural index).
If you follow the free liturgical planner closely, you’ll notice you can purchase a variety of choral arrangements and special new music (copyright OCP) that match perfectly with the response, the hymnal, and the missalette (copyright OCP), which is itself integrated with the prayers of the faithful (copyright OCP) and the gospel (not yet OCP copyright). And so it goes, until you follow the complete OCP plan for each Mass, from the first “Good morning, Father!” to the last “Go in peace to love and serve others!” By making each element dependent on the next, the OCP has ensured a steady — if trapped — clientele.
Musical Gnosticism
But why should the liturgy team go along with this program? The average parish musical team is made up of non-professionals. Its poorly paid members are untrained in music history; they have no particular craving for chant or polyphony, which often seems quite remote to them. Most musicians in average Catholic parishes would have no idea how to plug into the rite an extended musical setting from, say, the high Renaissance, even if they had the desire to do so.
The OCP understands this point better than most publishers. In an interview, Michael Prendergast, editor of Today’s Liturgy, pointed again and again to the limited resources of typical parishes. The OCP sees serving such needs as a core part of its publishing strategy; its materials keep reminding us that we don’t need to know Church music to get involved.
Lack of familiarity with the Church’s musical tradition would not be a grave problem if there were a staple of standard hymns and Mass settings to fall back on. But it has been at least 30 years since such a setting was available in most parishes. The average parish musician wants to use his talents to serve the parish in whatever way possible, but he’s at a complete loss as to how to do it without outside guidance. The OCP fills that vacuum.
Under its tutelage, you can aspire to be a real liturgical expert, which means you have attended a few workshops run by OCP-connected guitarists and songwriters (who explain that your job as a musician is to whip people into a musical frenzy: loud microphones, drum tracks, over-the-top enthusiasm when announcing the latest hymn). These “experts” love the OCP’s material because it allows them to keep up the pretense that they have some special knowledge about what hymns should be used for what occasions and how the Mass ought to proceed.
Real Catholic musicians who have worked with the OCP material tell horror stories of incredible liturgical malpractice. The music arrangements are often muddled and busy, making it all but impossible for regular parishioners to sing. This is especially true of arrangements for traditional songs, where popular chords give old hymns a gauzy cast that reminds you of the 1970s group Chicago.
The liturgical planning guides are a ghastly embarrassment. Nine years ago, for example, the liturgical planner recommended “Seek Ye First” for the first Sunday in Lent (“Al-le-lu-, Al-le-lu-yah”). In numerous slots during the liturgy, OCP offers no alternative to debuting its new tunes. When traditional hymns are offered, they’re often drawn from the Protestant tradition, or else the words are changed in odd ways (see, for example, its strange version of “Ubi Caritas”). The liturgical instructions are equally pathetic. On July 8, 2002, the liturgical columnist passed on this profound summary of the gospel of the day: “Live and let live.”
The Middle Way?
Nevertheless, the OCP seems to have solved a major liturgical rift affecting today’s local churches. Just as every parish used to have a low-Mass crowd and a high-Mass crowd, there are now two factions in parishes: One wants more “contemporary” music of the sort seen in Life-Teen Masses — loud, rhythmic, and rockish. Another wants traditional music and sensibly asks whatever happened to the hymns of the old days. These two groups are forever at loggerheads and have been so for decades. In fact, most pastors are so sick of the dispute that they’ll do anything to avoid talking about music at Mass.
This is where OCP steps in and serves as the peacekeeping moderate. After all, it’s an established music publisher, and thanks to the missalette, it doesn’t appear (at first) to be particularly partisan. Its literature contains enough traditional material to allow the liturgical team to claim they’re sensitive to the needs of both the contemporary and traditional factions. Indeed, the OCP eschews the most extreme forms of grunge-metal Life-Teen music (though its Spirit & Song comes close). At first sight, it does appear to take the middle ground between two extremes. In truth, however, it’s only slightly behind the curve of the most radical liturgical innovators — as it’s always behind the curve in the popular styles it tries to imitate.
What about the other option of splitting up the Masses according to style, so that those who like traditional music can have their own Mass and the people who compose for the OCP can have theirs? Prendergast rejects this. Whether the style is traditional, contemporary, folk, or even “rock,” Prendergast says, “everyone in the parish has to be exposed to it.” And what if a pastor just doesn’t like rock and other contemporary styles? Prendergast says, “I would talk to the [chancery’s] Office of Worship about him.” I asked whether that means he would turn this poor priest in to the bishop. His response: “I would try to arrange for him to attend a workshop on liturgy.”
With a great deal of knowledge, careful planning, and conscious intent, it is possible to manufacture decent liturgies even if the OCP music is all you have. You’ll have to dig to find the good hymns (10 to 20 percent in the typical OCP publications), but it can be done. It’s also true that not everyone involved with the OCP wants to destroy all that has gone before. There are probably many people on its middle-aged staff who from time to time cringe at the music, just as the people in the pews do. For his part, Prendergast is sure that he thinks with the mind of the Church, and there’s no reason to doubt his sincerity.
In fact, there are periodic signs of hope. Regular readers of Today’s Liturgy might have been astounded a few years ago to see a one-page article buried in its pages that urged children be taught Latin hymns and chant. “The Second Vatican Council did not destroy the tradition of chant,” said the writer, who was a student of the excellent English composer John Rutter. “We can still claim our chant heritage as part of the living Church’s journey into the future.” Indeed we can! But the news seems to be slow in getting around the OCP office. (The same issue contained a blast against a poor old lady who read a prayer book during Mass instead of singing goodness knows what.)
What’s completely amazing about the entire OCP family is how lacking it is in self-awareness. The poor quality of contemporary Catholic music is a cultural cliché that turns up in late-night shows, Woody Allen movies, and Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion. It is legendary among real musicians. Ask an organist what he thinks about today’s Catholic music, and you will receive a raised eyebrow or a knowing laugh.
What You Can Do Right Now
The truth is that no one is happy with the state of Catholic liturgical music — least of all musicians — and the OCP is a big part of the problem. So, what can you do? Step 1 is to get rid of the liturgical planning guides and use an old Scripture index to select good hymns that have stood the test of time (if you absolutely must continue to use the OCP’s materials). Step 2 is to rein in the liturgical managers and explain to them that the Eucharist, and not music, is the reason people show up to Mass Sunday after Sunday. Step 3 is to get rid of the OCP hymnals and replace them with Adoremus or Collegeville or something from GIA (no, none of these is perfect, but they are all an oasis by comparison).
Finally, reconsider those innocuous little missalettes. These harmless-looking booklets may be the source of the trouble. Parishes can unsubscribe — accept no OCP handouts or volume discounts. There are plenty of passable missalettes and hymnals out there, and all the choral music you’ll ever need is now public domain and easily downloadable for free (www.cpdl.org).
In his book, The Spirit of the Liturgy (Ignatius Press, 2000), then-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger stated clearly that popular music does not belong at Mass. Indeed, it’s part of “a cult of the banal,” and “rock” plainly stands “in opposition to Christian worship.”
This is very strong language from the former cardinal. And yet we know that many liturgy teams in American parishes will continue to do what they’ve been doing for decades — systematically reconstructing the liturgy to accommodate pop aesthetic sensibilities. The liturgy is treated not as something sublimely different but as a well-organized social hour revolving around religious themes.
It’s up to you to decide the future course of your parish’s liturgy: reverent worship or hootenanny. Despite what the OCP might tell you, you can’t have both.

Jeffrey Tucker

By

Jeffrey Tucker is managing editor of Sacred Music and publications editor of the Church Music Association of America. He writes a bi-weekly column on sacred music and liturgy for Crisis Magazine and also runs the Chant Cafe Blog. Jeffrey@chantcafe.com

  • Derk Wilcox

    I really don’t know who the guitar strumming is meant to appeal to. The young? My five-year-old son has a pretty good grasp of the classics and every mass, near the end, he looks up at me and asks eagerly, “are we going to sing ‘Ode to Joy’?” Sadly, we rarely do.

  • Grace Burns

    My parish threw out the OCP fluff and stuff 5 years ago. It took some time but now even the congregation is singing using chant notation.

    I sing in our choir and we do beautiful sacred polyphony and we are building an impressive repetoire. I have even taught tweens and teens to read and sing the simple chants.

    Kids eat this up. Don’t be afraid to try it. Stick with it and do your best to ignore the naysayers.

    The only down side is if you travel you won’t like the music at your vacation church.

  • Pammie

    My thirtysomething daughter and I were discussing her parochial school days and the music she learned in class. The song that stuck out and the only one she remembers? “Wind Beneath My Wings”.She meant “On Eagles’s Wings” I guess,but she was humming the former. I’m still laughing,’cause crying won’t help.

  • Rich

    I really don’t know who the guitar strumming is meant to appeal to. The young? My five-year-old son has a pretty good grasp of the classics and every mass, near the end, he looks up at me and asks eagerly, “are we going to sing ‘Ode to Joy’?” Sadly, we rarely do.

    Your son is five. How can he have a pretty good grasp of anything? Sure, he knows what he has heard, and perhaps you play Beethoven’s ninth at other times besides hearing it in mass. But a good grasp of the classics? ….

    What You Can Do Right Now

    The truth is that no one is happy with the state of Catholic liturgical music — least of all musicians — and the OCP is a big part of the problem. So, what can you do?

    No one is really happy? Well, I think that is an over generalization. There are quite a few who speak of good music as one of the main reasons they attend a particular liturgy over others. Sure there are those who appreciate a more traditional (i.e. organ based) mass, but there are other forms that are still valid.

    Once again, the pew is big enough for more than just the frigid rigid who want all Catholics to be carbon copies of their own perfect sensibilities.

    Really….I read these forums and wonder if all of the A type personalities who write and post here will ever learn that there are many different temperments and ways of being that are NOT lesser than, nor are they wrong. We all do not have to LIVE in the tridentine middle ages.

    When the Holy Father Pope John Paul II was here in Phoenix in 1987, I sang in the choir for the papal mass and we had a number of those “problematic” pieces of music at the mass. Our own Bishop (Olmsted, one of the “good ones” according to some the theocon gestapo types around here) allows quite a bit of these “stale” songs at the cathedral.

    This kind of article, as long and tortured as it is, reminds me of the the pharisees and I can’t help think that liturgy police need to relax a little. Scrupulosity and religious legalism are some of the very things that Jesus railed against when he was here. The whole “my way or the highway” attitude just isnt in line with the Jesus of the gospels.

  • Maria

    Thanks for this explanation. I found it very informative, although I don’t think my parish actually uses the “missalettes” you mention, so the secret of its musical mess may be harder to find. But I suspect it is relying on the same music publishers as it produces its own music bulletin which is filled with the most banal selection of modern hymns. (I recognize the titles and “Ubi Caritas” is a standard feature. Oh, and then there’s the jolly song in which St. Bernard of Clairvaux’s words are helpfully augmented by some second-rate lyricist who added two new verses!) While the bulletin changes with the seasons, it generally contains the same “songs” as the last one does. We seem to work with about 10 “favorites” (not to me!).

    I am a convert and I often feel the songs we are singing “out-Protestant the Protestants”. They are mostly about “me, me, me” and my ability to bring social justice and enlightenment to the whole world.

    Also, could someone enlighten me about something I (as a convert) find extremely perplexing? Our Music Director repeats the same “gathering song” and recessional, week after week. Once we counted five weeks in a row with the same, difficult to sing and theologically questionable, “song” for the recessional. Surely this is not a Catholic tradition?????

  • Maria

    I’d just like to say a word to “Rich” whose post appeared while I was writing mine. At least from my perspective, I’m not at all opposed to different musical styles and I agree “tastes vary”. However, I am opposed to boring, theologically suspect lyrics and tedious music as a steady diet. I’m also sorry to see Catholic tradition ignored.

    As a former Protestant, I had lots of evangelical praise music in my history and I loved it, provided we didn’t get too often into the “repeat the same three-line verse sixteen times” that some charismatics do. Even then, I am quite happy to have some of this since it does seem to connect some people emotionally to Our Lord. Anyway, my problem is not about new music or about modern music; it’s about poor music, from even an ecclectic standpoint.

    I didn’t read this column as at all rigid or legalistic. I think it was just pointing out that monopoly tends to pull us all to the lowest common denominator — in music as in other areas of life.

  • wow

    Hmm, I might have said a few things differently, mainly because I think I’ve learned more in the meantime. This article was a plea for knowledge and understanding, in some ways. Thanks for resurrecting it!

    Lots of good progress these days.

  • Rich

    I didn’t read this column as at all rigid or legalistic. I think it was just pointing out that monopoly tends to pull us all to the lowest common denominator — in music as in other areas of life.

    I hear what you are saying about the monopoly, and to some extent, I dont disagree. While OCP does have a large “market-share” there are all kinds of avenues opening up right now in publishing, and the more the web becomes the delivery device, the more likely parishes are to have a much greater variety of musical choices at their fingertips. Honestly, this article, being as old as it is, does not take what is happening to publishing right now into account.

    My objection is probably more general in nature, and directed to those on this site as a whole. I cannot start threads, though, so I put in my two cents here and there as I have time.

  • Rick

    Jeff,
    Thanks for the piece. Hopefully, the garbage they play in most novus ordo parishes will disappear into the dustbin of history.

    At least the OCP publishes in ratty paperback. In my sturdy 1962 missal — which I got for free when a local pastor found a stash of them a few years ago and threw them out — there are traditional prayers and the text of Pius XII’s Mediator Dei in the front. Much better than the pablum contained in the lyrics of the songs in the OCP “booklets.”

    OCP “booklets,” St. Louis Jesuits, and bad/anti-Catholic liturgy — are all 1960s products that need to disappear.

  • EPB

    Remember the Jesus Cannibal song?

    Sons of God
    Hear his holy Word
    Gather ’round
    the table of the Lord

    EAT HIS BODY
    DRINK HIS BLOOD
    And we’ll sing a song of love
    Allelu, Allelu, Alleluia

  • Okie

    It doesn’t have to be all one way. It can be Gregorian Chant or the traditional Eastern hymnody. Everything else can get thrown out. There! That’s diversity we can all be okay with, ie, the diversity Vatican II ACTUALLY calls for.

    And no, there is no room for utter crap at Mass. Its not about opinions or what people like. Its about THE MASS. The graduale is the liturgical law for the Catholic West, and it has been for hundreds of years.

    As far as the 5 year, I’m sure he has a better grasp than anyone who writes and furthers the tone-deaf sentimentalism that passes in most parishes today.

    As far as “being in line” with the Jesus of the Gospels, I remember him pointing out that the narrow road is the way of God, and that the wide road was the road someone else had control over. “Big tent,” “wide road,” and other such distinctions are not Catholic. If you want diversity, go to a Byzantinne Mass every so often. 70’s drivel is not diversity, it is offensive kitsch invading the sacrifice of Christ.

  • Ann

    Many Catholics shudder, for example, when they hear the words Glory & Praise, the prototypical assortment of musical candy that was already stale about 15 years ago but which mysteriously continues to be repackaged and rechewed in parish after parish. “Here I am, Lord,” “Be Not Afraid,” “City of God,” “One Bread, One Body,” “Celtic Alleluia,” and (wait for it) “On Eagle’s Wings” — these all come courtesy of the OCP.

    I LOVE all of these songs. All of them. Give me some Dan Schutte and some Marty Haugen, and I am a happy girl. These are the songs I grew up with, these are the songs that mean Mass to me.

  • Mike

    I somewhat stole the title from a book entitled “Why Catholics Can’t Sing” that I got hold of from an ex-methodist piano player. My comment is about the ex-methodist piano player and not the book, in that many of the catholic church’s liturgy “managers” are non-catholic by training, although many have formal liturgical musicianship training in college. I am a bass player, who came back into the church playing a bass at folk masses. Although I love playing in the ensemble, I somehow noticed how the music we played cheapened my mass experience. We also did not practice enough for me to feel comfortable playing at mass and the quality of the “performance” suffered concordantly. Love or hate Glory and Praise, the music is difficult to play and hard to sing for most congregations unless you have played the songs routinely. But let me get back to my experience with playing in an ensemble. I ended up quitting and that eventually caused everyone to disband the ensemble when I expressed my dissatisfaction with both the quality of the music being performed and the “cheapness” that our performance was received by the parish. I am glad that I made that decision and I am glad that there are fewer folk masses at our parish.

  • Fr. John Jay Hughes

    By age nine I was a choirboy, and taking organ lessons, at the (Episcopalian)Cathedral of St.John the Divine in New York City – then an American version of England’s Canterbury Cathedral or York Minster, not the Temple of World Religions it is today. In my memoir NO ORDINARY FOOL:A TESTIMONY TO GRACE (Tate Publishing)I write:
    “I would continue to play the organ at boarding school and college. Today I can barely stumble through a hymn. For this modest ability there is now, alas, little demand, given the banal Hallmark ‘songs’ which pass for sacred music in all too many Catholic parishes in the United States. Talking recently with a classically trained Catholic organist who battles valiantly to stop the rot, I told him of my early training and bemoaned the loss of the grand and stirring hymnody which formed my musical taste. ‘Ah, but you were spoiled,’ he responded.”

  • Ann

    I find the folk mass type songs very easy to sing along with.

    Now, when the singer who was trained as an opera singer gets up there and starts belting it out, that’s when no one sings. Especially when she sings the Gloria. Stop singing the Gloria. Really. We can just say it.

    While I’m writing wishes, I would like to stop holding hands during the Our Father.

    The organ is way too loud, I can’t even hear myself think.

    I would also like people to stop coming in late and stop chit chatting. I would like people to stop wearing revealing clothing, sneakers, raggy jeans, sweatshirts and T-shirts with writing on them. I would like all women to think about their undergarments a bit before they come, how much people can see and not see and if aforementioned undergarments are actually, er, working. I would like to never see another Giants jersey in Mass ever again. Not even on a big game day. I would like parents to give their children some guidance on what is appropriate for Mass attire. Oh yeah, they can stop complaining about how much time CCD takes up each week too.

    Glory and Praise is the least of the problems.

  • Chcrix

    Sell it to the vendors, cover it with Intellectual property, use a superb marketing support plan. The customers don’t really get a choice. Indeed they may not even know that anything else is available.

  • Peter Freeman

    Oh, but I love the spiritual exercises promoted by “contemporary” Church music.

    I love the way it forces me to focus more deeply on the mystery of the Eucharist as a means of ignoring the cacophony that the choir loft vomits out.

  • RK

    A couple of years ago OCP purchased a mid-sized church bulletin publisher called LPI St. Louis. Bulletins are revenue streams for the bulletin publisher and there is competition between the publishing companies to sign the larger churches to contracts. One of the inducements is to offer profit sharing and rebates to the churches. OCP offers its missalettes and other publications for free or at reduced rates to churches in order to secure or retain bulletin publishing contracts. This is a very effective way for them to lock in Church customers, who are able to get their bulletins for free and get their missalettes for free as well.

  • sibyl

    I mostly agree with the writer that Church music is abysmal. Glory and Praise hymns often seem just like Broadway love songs or campfire tunes; in a prayer meeting they would work better than at Mass.

    My generation grew up with these songs, and most of us, like Ann, connect with them. But her other complaints, about the casual dress, the disrespect, and the lack of reverence, are completely LINKED to this music. This music is the music that would sound good on a pop radio station when done by professionals. In fact, I once went to a concert by Marty Haugen and two other composers (whose names I forget), and the familiar hymns that we stumble through sound a lot better when true singers sing them!

    But the point is, the music is linked to the clothes which are linked to the gum chewing which is linked to the talking or bulletin reading during the Consecration. All of these are selfish in that their first object is the pleasing of ourselves.

    I don’t think the music caused the rest of the problems. I think it all came out of the same viewpoint — the Mass is for ME to GET SOMETHING OUT OF, emotionally. Which is a denigration, a twisted view of its majesty and mystery. We don’t go to Mass to get, although God’s mercy feeds us. We are there to worship, adore, and commune with the God of the universe. And that is why music matters, as well as attire, physical posture, church architecture and decoration, behavior, language, all the rest.

  • Paul

    I LOVE all of these songs. All of them. Give me some Dan Schutte and some Marty Haugen, and I am a happy girl. These are the songs I grew up with, these are the songs that mean Mass to me.

    Ann, to me this seems to be precisely the problem. I also grew up with these songs, and they also immediately bring me back the pews we would sit in as a family. As I sang, I felt good about being lifted “up on eagle’s wings” and being made to “shine like the sun”. The songs made me feel good.

    The problem is, the songs always made me think about myself, and how I felt. The music at Mass was like a mini self affirmation session, pointing inwards towards myself. I never sang any of those songs and became increasingly aware of the real presence of Christ just a few feet from me (or actually inside of me). Singing those songs never helped me realize the incredible magnitude of the events that take place at the Mass (after years of poor catechesis, I am still struggling to learn these things).

    Maybe you haven’t had the same experience. However, I would be willing to bet that the reasons that many people enjoy these songs are the similar to what you have said; they like them because they make themselves feel happy, and they are pleasantly nostalgic. I would respectfully submit that we shouldn’t be going to Mass to make ourselves feel happy and nostalgic. We should be going to Mass to worship the Almighty God and receive him in the Eucharist first and foremost, and this isn’t always going to make us feel “happy”, per se.

    I hope this didn’t come across like I am looking down my nose at people who like these songs. I like them too, but as I think more about it, and hear more kinds of music, I don’t see how they are fit for a proper liturgy.

  • Paul

    I don’t think the music caused the rest of the problems. I think it all came out of the same viewpoint — the Mass is for ME to GET SOMETHING OUT OF, emotionally. Which is a denigration, a twisted view of its majesty and mystery. We don’t go to Mass to get, although God’s mercy feeds us. We are there to worship, adore, and commune with the God of the universe. And that is why music matters, as well as attire, physical posture, church architecture and decoration, behavior, language, all the rest.

    Exactly! Well said.

  • Margaret

    ….with Mr. Tucker. Thank you for putting to words what I have been thinking and feeling for years! I don’t go to Holy Mass to sing about ME or how I feel. I go to Holy Mass to sing to and praise God.

    It is not about our personal preferences. It is about what is suitable and proper for Holy Mass (Ordinary Form OR Extraordinary Form). The Church has spoken. She has told us what instruments and types of music are appropriate during Holy Mass.

    Why can’t we just follow Her instructions?

  • Susan

    I have to agree with the article. I’m a convert, and at first didn’t really think about the music at Mass, which was very similar to what I was used to at the non-denominational group at college. I realise that people have different tastes: I love rock and jazz and classical, so my tastes are quite eclectic. I would love it if Gregorian chant were used more. However, the point of Mass isn’t the music, and it isn’t about my personal preferences. The Mass is about the Eucharist, and worshipping our Eucharistic Lord. I feel the music should reflect that reverence, or even do without music altogether.

  • Todd

    This article is one I loved in the old print Crisis magazine. (Really? 7 years already?)

    I do miss it coming in the mail.

  • Ann

    Ann, to me this seems to be precisely the problem. I also grew up with these songs, and they also immediately bring me back the pews we would sit in as a family. As I sang, I felt good about being lifted “up on eagle’s wings” and being made to “shine like the sun”. The songs made me feel good.

    I disagree. These songs turn me towards God, not inward towards myself. The fact that I can actually sing them easily and enjoy them does not detract from them. Take Be Not Afraid. When I am struggling with something in life, that songs speaks to me and reminds me that God is with me all of the time and to think that I am to rely only on myself is faulty. On Eagles Wings: I think of all those who have gone before me, and how we are to pray that they are indeed being held in the palm of His hand. Though the Mountains May Fall: When we get caught up in the worldliness and materialism, we are reminded that the only thing that remains in the end is God. On and on.

    The problem is, the songs always made me think about myself, and how I felt. The music at Mass was like a mini self affirmation session, pointing inwards towards myself. I never sang any of those songs and became increasingly aware of the real presence of Christ just a few feet from me (or actually inside of me). Singing those songs never helped me realize the incredible magnitude of the events that take place at the Mass (after years of poor catechesis, I am still struggling to learn these things).

    I understand exactly why we are at Mass (to serve, not to be served).

    Maybe you haven’t had the same experience. However, I would be willing to bet that the reasons that many people enjoy these songs are the similar to what you have said; they like them because they make themselves feel happy, and they are pleasantly nostalgic. I would respectfully submit that we shouldn’t be going to Mass to make ourselves feel happy and nostalgic. We should be going to Mass to worship the Almighty God and receive him in the Eucharist first and foremost, and this isn’t always going to make us feel “happy”, per se.

    I do admit that part of my liking for these songs is nostalgia, and I am sure that people older than me feel nostalgia for certain parts of the Mass, prayers, songs also that they remember growing up. I don’t see a problem with that.

    I hope this didn’t come across like I am looking down my nose at people who like these songs. I like them too, but as I think more about it, and hear more kinds of music, I don’t see how they are fit for a proper liturgy.

    I didn’t take your comments as snobbery, but in general, I find articles like this to be snobbish. Perhaps I am just an uneducated rube.

  • Andy

    The OCP’s power over Catholic liturgy is derived entirely from its copyrights, phenomenal sales, and marketing genius.

    I know this is an older article, so some facts are dated, like this one.

    OCP actually has a spot on the Subcommittee on Liturgical Music under the worship committee in the USCCB. So does GIA. Why are publishers helping draft liturgical guidelines that serve their business model? It’s no wonder we got Sing to the Lord!

    On another note to all you music directors out there: Don’t be tempted because missalettes and annual hymnals are CHEAPER than hardbacks. Sure, this year’s might be. Considering that the average hardcover hymnal lasts ten years, though, you’re saving substantially more money in the long run going with a permanent hymnal.

    But what do I know? I’m just another snob.

  • I am not Spartacus

    It’s up to you to decide the future course of your parish’s liturgy: reverent worship or hootenanny.

    It was no surprise to me to learn in was the homosexual Prelate, Rembert Weakland, who initiated the hootenany mass.

    I used to think that what happened to my heritage was attributable to well-intentioned men who just made bad decisions. It is, however, quite clear that these subversive men intentionally lied and actively worked to kill the Council and the authoritative decisions issuing from Rome.

    I think the existence of an international conspiracy to destroy the good, the true, and the beautiful in The Mass is not a delusion. It is very real. And well-documented.

    http://www.musicasacra.com/pdf/chron.pdf

  • Jack

    I remember my Uncle who was a Monsignor had these problems in the 60’s.. He bristled when the youth group leader asked if they could have a guitar mass. The poor fellow never dared ask again!

    Kind of reminds me of the movie Chance Of Habit where Elvis Presley is singing at the Mass. The gist is, they forced the traditional old priest, to give in. How sixties PC!

    You see the Protestants have taken worship and praise music, and made it about the individual. Have you ever seen their praise and worship services? Everyone is off in their own little world.

    Catholics should know music is about litergy, and corparate worship. Because that is exactly the way Christ said it should be.

  • Clavichord

    I have to play the inappropriate stuff presented as “music for worship” contained in collections like those published by OCP. I am a music director and the parishioners are used to this music and will ask me when I’m going to play one of their “favorites” – and then they’ll name one of these pop-style tunes. In discussing this with my Pastor, we decided to have a combination of the two styles – traditional and contemporary. So I bounce back and forth from the organ to the piano. I sing in Latin and English. I’m not happy with this, but it’s what I must deal with for now.

    Many of our parishioners like to be “entertained” at Mass. A few have told me that the music isn’t as enjoyable now. No matter what people may say to the contrary, many are coming to Mass for the wrong reasons. The music is only a samll part of the liturgy. These folks are missing the point of worship.

  • Gabriel Austin

    “Why” asked the composer Ned Rorem “do the churches believe that young people will come to the church to hear ‘their own music’ when they can it better in their own concerts?”

  • R.C.

    I hear what you’re saying, all you folk who long for classical or Gregorian music.

    But the odd thing is that it’s not likely you’ve never heard contemporary praise-and-worship music, even when you’ve languished in a folk mass which presumably featured it.

    You see, I’ve checked into it, at various parishes in the Southeast. And none of them are doing a good job at CCM. None. They’re all embarrassingly incompetent at it.

    If the selection of songs and styles isn’t twenty years out-of-date, then the lyrics are bad. If the song lyrics aren’t bad, the song melody is. If the melody isn’t bad, the arrangement is. If the arrangement of the music isn’t bad, half the players are. If the players aren’t bad, the sound reproduction is. If the sound reproduction isn’t, the song-leaders confuse the congregation instead of facilitating their learning and singing the tunes.

    Is it ever done well in a Catholic parish? I haven’t seen it, not once. It is usually done with a level of winceworthiness which, at a Protestant church, would chase congregants away.

    I mean, come now: “On Eagles’ Wings?” Please, there is no excuse for anyone selecting that song for use in Mass later than 1978. I defy anyone to justify it. Some chord progressions and melodies don’t age well; it’d be like writing “This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius” as a pop lyric…in the Mid 90’s! (“Let’s do the time warp again,” anyone?)

    Why this widespread incompetence? I don’t know.

    Is it because the Catholic parishes don’t spend the money? It is, sad to say, an expensive proposition. Not just the sound-system; I mean the musicians themselves. Competent CCM players in the Atlanta area fetch $100 a service or more; I presume it’s similar elsewhere.

    You can skip the payment, of course…but then you’re stuck with a 15-year-old guitar player, a drummer who can’t keep time, a songleader with no sensitivity to worship, and a sound engineer nicknamed “Captain Feedback.”

    Or, is it because any musicians in a Catholic parish who attempt a contemporary-music set are treated as the “red-headed stepchildren” of the parish? Perhaps that’s it: It’s demoralizing to know that you’re handicapped instead of being supported, because your parish thinks you suspicious or distasteful.

    I don’t know the reason. All I know is that, in my admittedly limited experience, no Catholic can judge contemporary worship music unless he visits, say, North Metro Church in Kennesaw, GA; or some place similar: That is, an Evangelical church where they actually do CCM well. For well-done CCM is apparently not to be found in the Catholic sphere, and the attempts are sometimes so heartbreakingly awful as to ensure that the listener longs for the pipe-organ of his sires, or the chant of his forefathers, or at the very least, silence.

  • R.C.

    Jack:

    You say,

    You see the Protestants have taken worship and praise music, and made it about the individual. Have you ever seen their praise and worship services? Everyone is off in their own little world.

    This statement made me curious: How could you tell?

    I ask, because it seems to me that such an observation could only come from studying the faces and body-language of the congregation as they sang.

    So I tried to imagine how those Protestant faces and bodies would differ from those of Catholic parishoners…

    (a.) singing along with contemporary accompaniment in a more pop-music-styled Mass, or
    (b.) singing along with classical or chant music,

    …in such a way as to cause you to conclude that the Protestants were self-engrossed, whereas the Catholics weren’t.

    I couldn’t come up with anything. But perhaps that’s a failure of imagination on my part.

    Can you please relate your exact observations to us, so that we can independently gauge whether your evidence (the faces and body-language you observed) is best explained by your hypothesis (that their minds, emotions, and wills are focused on themselves)?

    Thanks.

  • Jerry Becan

    I listen to music all week: Classical, blues, folk, 50s rock. The worst music I hear every week is the music at mass on Sunday. Our church has inspired and produced the greatest music in the history of the world. But don’t look for it in church on Sunday.

    Recommendation: live365.com “Choral Treasures”

  • Karl

    I will cherish the memory of “SONS OF GOD” for the rest of my life as I cherish the great classical pieces that I have come to appreciate, ever more, as my life progresses. However, To this day, I wish there was an acapella Do-Wop Mass sung by Dion and the Belmonts.

    Even though I am a former Catholic, I will treasure playing guitar to some of those wonderful RAY REPP songs, with my cousin accompanying me on his guitar as well. Thank you Miss McCarthy who supervised us.

    Thank God for the nuns who encouraged my love for music. Saint Joseph’s in Middletown, NY was an oasis of music for me and the nuns like Mother/Sister Edith and Mother/Sister Martin Marie(now known as Sister Mary Jo who remains a blessing to me). To this day, at 54, I hum and sing the words I remember from “Lord Accept the Gifts We Offer” and “Holy God We Praise Thy Name” among other “oldies”. On the rare occasion that I attend Mass any more, if one of these songs are played the experience brings me back to when I WANTED TO BE THERE. One of these days I may even attempt a Latin Mass and hope that it is sung the way I remember it as an Altar Boy. If this should occur I trust all eyes will be on the priests back. I would not want the others to see the tears that would, surely, be in my eyes if my memories were replayed-live. But I would hopefully remember my parents who saw to it that I attended “St. Joes” with those wonderful nuns who gave so much of themselves for little ones like me, and I hope that I will remember to pray for them as well.

  • A New Englander

    I wish there was some shelter from the stormy blast of the horrid Haugen and Haas music in my parish. Sunday after Sunday we have the same banal amd unsingable tunes. Yes, they are unsingable. The all have an irregular meter and a melody that wanders around and around then stops. Moreover, these tunes seem like brown shoes with a tux in the context of Mass in an early 20th century Gothic church. These tunes, hammered out on the piano, just don’t seem to fit with an entrance procession or, at the rare times our self described “progressive” pastor will use incense. In a real sense, they are not liturgical in the Catholic sense. If we can’t have chant, then I say we should sing real Protestant tunes in the vernacular. Those of Dix and Wesley are singable and more solidly Christian than much of the self-affirming drivel we are getting from OCP. But why not more John Mason Neale? He’s a Protestant, but his massive body of work consists mainly of translations of the the texts of the Greek and Latin fathers into the stately language of the Victorian period. If we must have music at Mass written by a Lutheran,(as is Haugen), then why not Praetorius or Bach, or even Luther himself, whose hymns for congregational singing are often more Catholic than anything in Glory and Praise.

  • Dan T

    “Olmsted, one of the “good ones” according to some the theocon gestapo types around here…”

    Ah, the tolerant and enligthen gift of name calling…”where love and charity prevails…”

    peace

  • Chris

    The eminent priest, theologian, and cultural commentator Richard John Neuhaus used to say that, “Missalettes make Christianettes.” No doubt Jeffrey Tucker would agree.

    In fact, they would both also agree with the Second Vatican Council:
    “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.” Sacrosanctum Concilium, para. 116.

    Additionally, they would both agree with the future Pope Benedict XVI, who wrote:
    “In the West, in the form of Gregorian chant, the inherited tradition of psalm-singing was developed to a new sublimity and purity, which set a permanent standard for sacred music, music for the liturgy of the Church. Polyphony developed in the late Middle Ages… It was made a norm that liturgical music should be at the service of the Word; the use of instruments was substantially reduced; and the difference between secular and sacred music was clearly affirmed.” Joseph Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, pp. 145-6.

  • Micha Elyi

    A lot of kind folks have identified shortcomings in the Catholic worship music they are asked to sing at masses they attend. Ann was especially spot on when she noticed “when the singer who was trained as an opera singer gets up there and starts belting it out, that’s when no one sings.”

    I blame the too-prevalent bad habit of congregants applauding the choir at the end of mass for leading our choirs into the temptation of believing that they are to entertain the congregation.

    What are the practical alternatives to music from OCP? I’d like to know because this summer some nuns organized a liturgical ministry conference in the diocese in which I live that has OCP as one of its sponsors.

  • Jason Negri

    Catholics should know music is about litergy, and corparate worship. Because that is exactly the way Christ said it should be.

    Sorry, Jack, I don’t recall that passage in the Gospels. Where did Christ say exactly that?

  • I am not Spartacus

    “However, To this day, I wish there was an acapella Do-Wop Mass sung by Dion and the Belmonts.”

    I sometimes think that were today’s “liturgists” alive at the time of The Crucifixion that some of them would have planned a Parish Picnic and sing-along on Calvary.

    The Baby-Boomer generation has been like a brick passing through the kidneys of the Body of Christ.

    The Funeral Mass is the answer to many of the problems in the Catholic Church and The Baby-Boomer radicals are headed that way.

    Buh-Bye !!!!

  • Joshua

    Nice Robocop reference, Micha! How true!

    We have GIA hymnals at our parish. I never thought that anyone would say they are some of the decent ones. OCP must be really bad.

    I certainly dislike the modern songs. And they are worse when they are re-written. Singing as Jesus in “I Am The Bread of Life” wasn’t bad enough; now we have to alter the words and replace Scripture with political correctness??? Isn’t anything sacred?

    What can be worse is the musicians. Yes, there are the opera singers. One church fixed this by replacing the opera singer with music in a box. Yep, everyone sings along with an MP3.

    Our church has the choirs. The full choir. The bell choir. The children’s choir. And every mass with the choir is a performance. The first song during communion everyone sings. The second song is not in the hymnals, but is a performance by the choir. At least one of our priests put a stop to the applause after the second communion song and got people to wait until the end of mass. It’s very beautiful, but can we glorify God and not the choir?

    Hopefully, they don’t replace our choir with the praise band a nearby parish has. Songs were announced like “Please join Christlight in singing On Eagle’s Wings!” The band name was mentioned with every song! I was surprise that the announcements after mass didn’t include booking information for them.

    I certainly think music ministers should be given their due. As should sacristans, deacons, and ushers. But the whole point to any service at church should be about serving God and neighbor and doing one’s best to not be a distraction from the mass.

  • Ann

    BTW, why don’t men sing in Mass? At least most of women try. The men just stand there mute.

  • Rich

    I wonder what instruments the apostles and disciples listened to in the very early days of liturgy. You know…when they were to sing “songs, hymns, and inspired songs.” I have a feeling they did not have organs, nor did they chant. My guess is they used the instruments of the day, and somehow, it more than sufficed. This is not to say I dont appreciate chant, because I do. However, the disparraging comments I see here about the use of modern music in liturgy seems odd given what probably was the norm for many many years in many many churches.

    It’s interesting to me that there are quite a few folsk on this site who easily blast current bishops because they perceive the bishops to be “too progressive” for a number of different reasons. I have even seen a thriving meme that seems to disvalue the work of the Second Vatican Council, hearkening back for simpler times and a more “traditional” (translated, I guess, tridentine) liturgy.

    The thing that I find kind of funny, is that while there may have been quite a number of years in the last millenium that did have an organ and chant as a core of what the liturgy was about, that Byzantine/European ideal is still situated in a particular time and place in history.

    Why is it so difficult to see that there are many different styles of songs, hymns and inspired songs now, from around the globe? If the instruments and songs of a particular culture are good enough for papal masses, why are they so dreadful now just because they are not ALL organ and/or chant?

    Most of what I am reading in this thread is about matters of taste, where there really should not be dispute. I know some say it is all about truth, but I disagree. Yes, there are “rules” now, rules that have been laid down about what “liturgical music” ought to be in its “ideal” form, and yes, I have read all of the current liturgical documents. I submit, however, that the Church in her wisdom, has allowed for quite a bit of room for interpretation in this area, much more room that many here will even acknowledge, much less allow.

    How is it that the Haugen/Hass/OCP/GIA music is used at cathedral masses, and papal liturgies then? Wouldn’t the liturgy police put a kibosh on it? I have seen quite abit of hand wringing over this and I find it to be much ado about very little.

    People should go where they get fed. If you appreciate a certain style of liturgy, there is bound to be one close to your liking within 20 miles or so. If not, move to a place where you are fed….you can make it happen, I know you can.

    Peace!

  • I am not Spartacus

    116. 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, as laid down in Art. 30.

    For the past two score years, it has been easier to find examples of Sen. John Kerry speaking in defense of the 9th and 10th Amendments than it has been to find Masses in America featuring Chant and Sacred Polyphony.

    American Ecclesiastical Theft has been the order of the day and this state of Liturgical anomie has seen more violations of Canon Law than the number of times Nancy Pelosi has violated her Oath of Office to protect and defend The Constitution.

  • I am not Spartacus

    57. The Church has further used her right of control over liturgical observance to protect the purity of divine worship against abuse from dangerous and imprudent innovations introduced by private individuals and particular churches. Thus it came about – during the 16th century, when usages and customs of this sort had become increasingly prevalent and exaggerated, and when private initiative in matters liturgical threatened to compromise the integrity of faith and devotion, to the great advantage of heretics and further spread of their errors – that in the year 1588, Our predecessor Sixtus V of immortal memory established the Sacred Congregation of Rites, charged with the defense of the legitimate rites of the Church and with the prohibition of any spurious innovation.[48] This body fulfills even today the official function of supervision and legislation with regard to all matters touching the sacred liturgy.[49]

    58. It follows from this that the Sovereign Pontiff alone enjoys the right to recognize and establish any practice touching the worship of God, to introduce and approve new rites, as also to modify those he judges to require modification.[50] Bishops, for their part, have the right and duty carefully to watch over the exact observance of the prescriptions of the sacred canons respecting divine worship.[51] Private individuals, therefore, even though they be clerics, may not be left to decide for themselves in these holy and venerable matters, involving as they do the religious life of Christian society along with the exercise of the priesthood of Jesus Christ and worship of God; concerned as they are with the honor due to the Blessed Trinity, the Word Incarnate and His august mother and the other saints, and with the salvation of souls as well. For the same reason no private person has any authority to regulate external practices of this kind, which are intimately bound up with Church discipline and with the order, unity and concord of the Mystical Body and frequently even with the integrity of Catholic faith itself.

  • Joe

    “I LOVE all of these songs. All of them. Give me some Dan Schutte and some Marty Haugen, and I am a happy girl. These are the songs I grew up with, these are the songs that mean Mass to me” — and maybe its time to move on — if one is accustommed to junk food, one will never know the greatness of a 5 star restaurant.

  • Rich

    “I LOVE all of these songs. All of them. Give me some Dan Schutte and some Marty Haugen, and I am a happy girl. These are the songs I grew up with, these are the songs that mean Mass to me” — and maybe its time to move on — if one is accustommed to junk food, one will never know the greatness of a 5 star restaurant.

    Why? Just because some people like what they like does not mean everyone else is WRONG for liking something else.

    And yes, while some of this is a matter of church teaching, a significant portion of this is more about taste than truth.

    Thankfully, not everyone HAS to be elitist.

  • David Evarts

    The concerns that you are speaking of are common (and probably always have been common) to all branches of the church. (With the possible exception of the Orthodox churches.) Here’s my suggestion. Ask the musicians to write their own compositions (in whatever styles best suit the message and speak to the intended audience) based solely on scripture, liturgy and their lives. Then, combine their origional compositions with only those peices from contemporary and classical liturgy that 1.) fit the service theologically 2.)Speak authentically, honestly, and in a clear voice and 3.) are musically excellent. They should challenge themselves to extend their skills to the best suited peices and never accept a piece because it is easier to play, most impressive, traditional, up to date or reccomended. Then, you will find that the music carries the best of ancient traditions, good theology, authenticity and relevance, innovations and be a step ahead of what’s next as it changes the surrounding culture.

  • sibyl

    Ann asked another good question, which is, why don’t men sing? Could it be because the kinds of songs that are served up are:
    a)embarrassing for men to sing in front of other people?
    b)pitched too high?
    c)mawkish and slightly, well, Celine Dion-ish in tune?
    d)none of the above?

    If d), could the male commenters on this thread chime in? I’m not being facetious, either; I’d really like to know.

    For what it’s worth, my grandfather of blessed memory never sang in church. When as a child I asked about this, my mom said that he just didn’t think that the congregation ought to sing. She didn’t really say why he thought this.

  • David Evarts

    This too is common to American Christian men of all denominations. I’d suggest that wether contemporary or classics, such as chants, that the majority of music sung in churches is too high for most men. That combined with our famed American masculine reticence to be seen as emotive, uncontrolled or too passionate and our relegation of spirituality and the arts to the “feminine” world, makes it difficult for most men to do so. When we can sing in tenor it puts us to mind of Michael Jackson, gay men and eunuchs. Perhaps, a nice bluesy liturgy for men? [smiley=happy]

  • David in AZ

    As a man, I skip songs that are too high, too Carpenters’sh, and too DUMB. Which many are. Most are. It’s painful us to sit there and endure this stuff. I will never sing (say) Eagles Wings. It doesn’t work for me. I find it to be an Oprah feel good thing.
    My 72 year-old mother in law loves it. Really, most older people do. I’m finding “contemporary” to not be what it used to be. Few people under 50 like what is mainstream OCP “contemporary.” It’s 60’s and 70’s people music.

    I’ll take a reverently performed “Here I am to Worship” style song first (I like “vertical” heart-to-heart prayer songs), and the pre Vat-2 classics second. But this mawkish other stuff – No thanks! Honestly, I think we’d be better off with no musicians most the time and just let the people sing – so long as we pick carefully.

  • ebierer

    The concerns that you are speaking of are common (and probably always have been common) to all branches of the church. (With the possible exception of the Orthodox churches.) Here’s my suggestion. Ask the musicians to write their own compositions (in whatever styles best suit the message and speak to the intended audience) based solely on scripture, liturgy and their lives. Then, combine their origional compositions with only those peices from contemporary and classical liturgy that 1.) fit the service theologically 2.)Speak authentically, honestly, and in a clear voice and 3.) are musically excellent. They should challenge themselves to extend their skills to the best suited pieces and never accept a piece because it is easier to play, most impressive, traditional, up to date or recommended. Then, you will find that the music carries the best of ancient traditions, good theology, authenticity and relevance, innovations and be a step ahead of what’s next as it changes the surrounding culture.

    Thank you David. This is my opinion too- especially as a professional musician. This is a very inflammatory article that sounds more like a conspiracy theory every time I read it…skull and bones, the free masons, OCP…yeah right.[smiley=tongue]

  • Andy

    What are the practical alternatives to music from OCP? I’d like to know because this summer some nuns organized a liturgical ministry conference in the diocese in which I live that has OCP as one of its sponsors.

    I understand how OCP sponsors conferences like this, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with the idea, other than it ends up being a sales pitch for OCP products. I’ve been to them. Attending an NPM convention is like watching a long commercial, where all the workshops are led by shills trying to push a product.

    Practical alternatives? Most of these mainstream publishers do have some decent stuff. GIA’s Worship III isn’t bad in the realm of “the big three” (OCP, GIA, and Collegeville).

    Other than those three, I’m a big fan of CanticaNova Publications. Their whole schtick is traditional music for the contemporary church. They have a great collection of excellent classics as well as appropriate new music for the liturgy.

  • R.C.

    Men don’t sing because:

    (1.) A form of performance anxiety;

    (2.) The lyrics are sometimes so saccharine, so wilting, so full of flowery expressions of devotion, that they’re embarrassing, and a man feels absurd singing them;

    (3.) Inappropriate writing for pitch-gravity (sustained higher pitches instead of lines which fall away from one or two high pitches) requires either shouting — not acceptable in a quiet congregation when no-one else sings — or using a lilting falsetto — even worse. (And the average man doesn’t have a sufficiently well-trained falsetto or upper-register to prevent it from cracking or sounding like an old woman.)

    (4.) Major-7 chords. I know, only a narrow slice of readers know what I’m talking about, here, but for those of you who don’t understand music, just trust me on this. If a song moves from Cmaj to Fmaj, it’s a powerful triadic cadence. But so many church music arrangers spent the better part of the 70’s and 80’s putting 7-notes on there; e.g., Cmaj7 to Fmaj7. It takes an otherwise firm-sounding harmonic movement and slops milquetoasty schmaltz all over it. For those who know pop-music, it’s the difference between the sound of the keyboards in Van Halen’s “Jump,” and those in “Close To You” and “Girl From Impanema.”

    In short, a church music director who permits music with these chords in Mass is going out of their way to help men associate the Worship of Almighty God with utter pansyhood.

    (5.) The music is sometimes not loud enough. If a man can no longer hear the music as soon as he opens his mouth to sing full-voiced, he can no longer hear if he’s singing on-pitch or on-time. So, he’ll shut up: Exactly what we didn’t want!

    (6.) Parts. Provided the chord progressions aren’t obscure and unguessable and there are a few other competent guy singers around to follow, men are happier singing polyphonic music. It gives them one or two parts that are theirs.

    For those who find this last bit dubious, consider the psychology of it: Which is happier, a man assigned a specific task, or a man asked to “help?” Which is happier, a man who follows his wife around through the store, or the man who is given a part of the list which he is responsible for locating and bringing to the check-out counter?

    Men don’t want to sing octaves with their wives. They think their wives sound better on those notes anyhow, in which case, what does anybody need the men for? No; provided there’s another competent male singer whom they can follow if they’re unsure, they want to either sing the bass-line, or sing something where it’s a call and response between the men and the women, or hold up the melody and let the women do a harmony or a descant. In short, they’d rather “do their job, and hold up their end” than just “help sing.”

    Now, those “Promise Keeper” rallies — remember those? — used to do a pretty decent job of getting men to sing. How? Well, the emcee would goad them into it, the song selection would be male-appropriate in range, pitch-gravity, and style of music, and they were surrounded by thousands of other men belting it out with zeal and a certain degree of abandon.

    I’m all for worshiping God according to God’s rules for worship.

    But I wonder sometimes if we haven’t misunderstood God’s rules. Would He design worship music so it was (a.) so utterly unlike that in the Bible, and (b.) so degrading to those whom Has called to be warriors and stewards and husbands and servant-leaders?

    David “danced before the Lord” — so wildly that his wife Michael “despised him.” How could this manly man be moved to do what so few men do in church now?

    Well, David liked his music loud: “Sing to Him with the lyre, the zither, the loud clashing cymbals.” Sounds to me like the Pete Townsend Keith Moon of ancient Israel.

    Want men to sing? Perhaps God would be pleased with the kind of music to gladden the heart of a warrior. The LORD, after all, “is a warrior.”

  • Priest’s Mom

    Hi there… a couple of comments caught my eye. One writer referred to the “Neo-con gestapo” and the “Rigid Frigid” trying to control the music. I’m confused. Where is the diversity? I haven’t heard any beautiful, traditional Catholic music in a generation at Mass &, yes, my family does have to suffer through the Oregon Missalette. How is any “Neo-con gestapo” forcing rigid musical choices? What we’ve had to put up with, like many other Catholics, has been the lib gestapo forcing mediocre music down my family’s throat for an entire generation; few of today’s Catholics have ever heard any truly great ‘Catholic’ music. Also, a comment by someone who hated hold hands during the Our Father: Holding Hands is not in the rubrics and nothing should be added to any Mass which is not specified in the rubrics. There also is some confusion with a few folks over what Vatican II actually called for. Vatican II called for the Latin Novus ordo Mass [smiley=happy]& said that the vernacular could only be used with permission… plus Vatican II called for our beautiful traditional music to be used! Lastly…. Dan Schutte, who receives money from the Oregon Missal Company for his music, is a former St. Louis Jesuit priest. “Here I am, Lord” is the rallying song for Catholic ‘Gays’. Dan Schutte is a ‘partner gay man’ who lives in the Bay area with his partner, Mike Gale. Google it! I am absolutely sick of this publishing company pushing this garbage down our throats.

  • Chironomo

    Rich said:

    “The whole “my way or the highway” attitude just isnt in line with the Jesus of the gospels”

    So…Jesus didn’t insist that OCP get out of the Temple because they were profaning it? Ooops… I meant MONEYCHANGERS, not OCP…my bad! Then again…is there a difference?

  • Musician

    As a musician, one must be careful regarding song selection at Mass. But let us all not forget that we are to be obedient and charitable. Regardless of whether or not we agree with our Priest, our Bishop or our Pope on any matter, we must be obedient. There is a hierarchy to our Church like it or not. If our USCCBs have issued “Sing to the Lord”, then that is our American document. If they issued something else, then that is what we use to guide us.

    I recently read a very old (pre-VII) document (i.e. Tra le Sollecitudini – Instruction on Sacred Music by Pope Pius X – 1903) which actually suggests that even the organ at Mass is not ultimately proper. They also suggest there is no place for women to serve in any capacity (especially in a choir) – interesting that the first Lector at Pope John Paul II’s funeral was both a woman and proclaimed the Word in English – go back and check it out I was in the hospital after baby #3’s birth. Thank God for VII. Thank God for our Church. Thank God for our Priests, Bishops and our Pope.

    Please be careful and pray that God’s will (not ours) when it comes to Mass music, be done. Consider that even if Pope John Paul II can tap his foot and smile, clap and express his joy for the wonderful people God gave him to lead, that perhaps we need to embrace the Church with all its bruises and non-perfect people that make it up. All of us Peters who deny Christ every single day (even at Mass), all of us Judases who betray our Lord every time we turn around, all of us who fail to do what God may be asking us to do – who perhaps don’t join the choir or donate out of our wealth toward the training of an organist or sponsor young men to seminary or women to religious life. Too many people like to live their lives complaining about EVERYTHING and few actually take up the cross of Christ and follow him into the streets. Please get out of the pew and start living the commands of Christ.

    I wonder, if Mother Teresa had ever posted to a blog such as this, what would she say? Would she say, YEAH Organ, YEAH Chant, BOO VII, BOO “On Eagle’s Wings”, YEAH guitars, YEAH “On Eagle’s Wings”, YEAH Haugen and Haas, etc…? Or would she say, “I will pray for you and your distractions and I will also pray for all the people serving the Lord and his people”. Would she accept a musician playing a guitar in her small room where she and her fellow sisters were to have Mass or would she demand that someone bring in an organ and an all-male schola? I wonder about the people in Alaska who have Mass once a month in someone’s home. Or some African country where people walk 30 miles to get to Mass once in a while. I wonder if they have an organ. I also wonder if we as Americans have the right to demand that the rest of the world embrace the specific music written by imperfect people of any time period when there are so many other cultures and peoples and musical styles out there known and embraced and loved by the people of God. Let us not forget that the Church is everywhere not just the USA. Please be careful that we do not become arrogant. I don’t think Jesus likes arrogance – at least that’s what I get out of the Gospels.

    The Eucharist IS the “source and summit” of everything. And He deserves the best of everything we have to offer. Of course, all we truly have to offer Jesus is ourselves and His sacrifice back to God. With or without music, with or without singing, with or without organs or choirs or guitars or drums, timbrals, lyres, harps, trumpets , dancing, etc…

    I wonder when we are in the presence of the Lord (after our death), will he have to keep touching our face and turning it back toward him saying to us, “look at me”…”look at me” as we are so distracted by the child in front of us, or the music at Mass or the priest’s accent, or the t-shirt or the people who aren’t reverent enough or the people who aren’t holy enough…

    “LOOK AT ME”…

  • R.C.

    Musician:

    You’re right, of course.

    There are an awful lot of us Marthas flustered over this detail or that, when we ought, like Mary, to focus on the one thing that is needed.

    All the same, there are roles for persons other than the Pope to make decisions in the Body of Christ. And when one makes a decision regarding worship music, why, discernment and craftsmanship and all these other factors come into play.

    To the extent that we’re all just standing ’round the water cooler complaining, the “word” we need to hear is “What is that to thee? Follow thou Me.”

    To the extent that we’re actually communicating the needs of the faithful to those charged with helping meet those needs, we are obligated not to just “shut up,” but rather to communicate those needs with respect to the servant-leaders who need to know them.

    To the extent that we’re persons responsible for playing or singing or leading or selecting the music, we must be aware of the impact of our playing or singing or leading or selections, and as undistorted feedback (I’m not talking about the microphonic variety) is sometimes hard to obtain, perhaps hearing folk discussing the pros and cons of different styles, here in the comboxes, is not entirely useless?

    And it’d be one thing if we were saying this in Mass — or even allowing ourselves to silently dwell on it, when we ought to have our attention on Christ. But I doubt anyone posting here was “tweeting in” from the pews.

    So I think there is a proper role for this kind of discussion.

    But I grant you that we must watch ourselves like hawks — I must watch myself like a hawk — to ensure that it’s all done in a useful and appropriate manner, and not from unconstructive griping or “to have my voice heard” or whatever.

  • Jerome Morzinski

    The author apparently believes that nobody is writing good music anymore; he says “all the choral music you’ll ever need is now public domain and easily downloadable for free”. Guess what: that music was contemporary at one time. If he were alive three or four centuries ago, I bet he would have said the same thing about the terrible stuff written by Praetorius, Bach, Handl, etc.

  • I am not Spartacus

    Mr. Morzinski. Google “The New Liturgical Movement” and you will discover that each and everyone of your presumptions are inaccurate..

  • Chris Ryland

    To me the worst offense of the OCP-like missals is their constant politically-correct updating of the traditional words to the point of absurdity. (Going to extreme lengths avoiding “him” or “he”
    or “men”.)

    If you published a collection of famous poems annually, and updated their content each year to match the passing fads of the day, how much respect would you get in the world of literature for such a egregious act? And why can OCP get away with this in the liturgical world?

  • Jeffrey Pinyan

    I wonder what instruments the apostles and disciples listened to in the very early days of liturgy. … I have a feeling they did not have organs, nor did they chant.

    While they weren’t singing “Gregorian” chant, they were probably singing Israeli chants.

    And although the Western Church has used the organ for quite a while, the unaccompanied human voice has been the “proper” music in the Church for much longer; even Pope St. Pius X spoke of it.

  • A.

    I wonder what instruments the apostles and disciples listened to in the very early days of liturgy. You know…when they were to sing “songs, hymns, and inspired songs.” I have a feeling they did not have organs, nor did they chant. My guess is they used the instruments of the day, and somehow, it more than sufficed. This is not to say I dont appreciate chant, because I do.

    On the contrary, chant has been around long before Christianity. It has always been a sacred form of vocal musical worship for many different religions – especially early religions. It’s perhaps one of the only forms of music that was specifically used only for worship. Gregorian chant, which is specific in Catholicism, is only one form of chant. In Judaism, as most people know, chant is integral in their worship, so Jesus and His Apostles and Disciples would have most likely been hearing their form of chant during worship in the synogogue.

  • A New Englander

    I think the technical music experts such as R.C. have hit the nail on the head. I’m a 46 year old man and love to sing in Church. I only get a chance to do so when I go to the nearby parish run by a religious order because unlike my own parish, they don’t use the OCP publications. Oddly, I’m the only person in my house without musical ability (as my kids like to remind me), but I’m not reluctant to sing “the old standards” because of their familiar and memorable melodies and their well crafted lyrics.I also like to sing the Gregorian melodies, especially the Kyrie from the Missa de Angelis. I dislike the contemporary stuff because I cannot sing it and can’t recall the melodies — and so I don’t. I also don’t like the anthropocentric lyrics, which all sound something like “we are church”. I made my first communion to a guitar playing Sister of St. Joseph of Chambery singing “Take our Bread”. I felt embarassed then and still do. There is a certain “pansy-hood” as R.C. pointed out, in much of this music, which is absent in the older hymns in the vernacular, whether written by Catholics or Protestants, or in the Gregorian. That makes the hard-ti-sing OCP stuff harder still, while trying to be the epitome of paternal masculinity in front of three “tweens” who consider everything a dad does to be “uncool”.

  • Chris B from Maryland

    Is all contemporary liturgical music bad? No, but like all art, bad art is plentiful, and good art is rare.

    It is axiomatic that most of contemporary liturgical music is bad music, and bad liturgy. We get liberal doses of this every Sunday, with the constant churn of unfamiliar lyrics, unsingable rythms and unnaturally high pitches. Such music can often only be ‘performed’ by ‘music ministers’ standing in for the stunned parishioners. And we all notice that when an old Catholic standard is cued up, often reserved for the recessional, we suddenly experience the miracle of Catholics singing loud and clear.

    One thing worse than bad contemporary liturgical music is the over-promotion of bad contemporary liturgical music, at the expense good traditional music. For instance, the “Gather” hymnal advert states it “contains approximately 70% contemporary-style music and 30% classical-style music.”

    A 70/30 bias toward contemporary music is not only a bias toward bad music…it is also an “un-Catholic” bias. It means that most of the time, the music and/or lyrics are missing Catholic “DNA.” If hymnals aspire to be “in the Catholic tradition” they’d probably do better to reserve 70% of the space for superior traditional music.

    An authentic Catholic identity involves a love of tradition – literally – loving what is “handed down to us” over the ages from “those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith.”

    Catholic culture, including its music, is a living thing, like an ancient “vine,” and as such requires new growth emerging organically out of the ancient stock. This is what Pope Benedict and others have talked about. As the saying goes,

  • Greg from Dayton Ohio

    This article is right on track! Some of the OCP and GIA music is heretical and should never be played in the Catholic Church, however some of the music is not that bad and even has the ability to bring your mind to God. The bigger issue is that most of this music would serve the church better by not being in the liturgy but being recorded in such a way that it can be used for recreation in our homes to inspire us and bring our minds to God outside of church. There is a band that is doing just that named ROMANS. They hold to Pride of Place and state in their albums that their rendition of these songs are meant for just that – recreation and not in the liturgy. They have an appeal to the young and old and the music is very enjoyable. If you want to listen and learn more about it, their website is: http://www.romanscatholic.com.

  • Tom Casey

    I am pretty unmusical; but I heard and sang it daily for four years and love it. If it were not for my own CDs, however, I would never hear it nowadays. What a loss.

    As far as why men don’t/won’t sing? I can only echo the previous posters. Most of the music is saccharine, feminized stuff that a man can’t relate to, written for female voices and ideals. Much like the Church itself, nowadays.

    Sometimes it looks like the Church would prefer if men didn’t come anymore. They just might get their wish.

  • Greg Smithhisler

    Why re-publish a 7-year-old, un-updated

  • Always Seeking

    Liked the posting by “Musician” — suffice it say, isn’t it all about WORSHIP? It’s not about paper, outdated books and printed materials, missalettes, “heretical writings” and musings, politics, feminine-sounding “Celine Dion” tunes, and being embarrassed to join in… SING! WORSHIP! BE GRATEFUL! “Musician” said it best when he wrote about Mother Teresa and the “what if” ridiculous demand for an organ in the living room for the music to be genuine… Come on people! Enjoy, No! Soak in the Psalms as they are creatively put to music and shared at Mass! Open up to God’s presence and the moving of the Holy Spirit when His Word is utilized in music collectively during the Liturgy! Worship as God intends! Be present and receive! Obviously, the writer has not experienced what it is like to truly praise God during Mass with music given to all of us by such incredibly gifted (Catholic!) musicians and songwriters such as Tom Booth, Tim and Julie Smith, Matt Maher and so many more…

  • Jo Myers

    I respectfully disagree with much of this post. I don’t understand the dislike of some of the songs mentioned. “Be Not Afraid” has gotten me through some very tough times with a chronic illness, and actually the times it has “popped up” in mass or in other venues when I most needed it has been amazing – definitely God-given! Just because a certain type of music doesn’t “float your boat” doesn’t mean it is wrong, anti-Catholic, or sacriligous (sp)…I never quite got why “Morning Has Broken” or “Lord of the Dance” were sung in church – but they might have deep meaning for some. No wonder people get disenchanted with going to church when people are so judgemental.

  • Brian Sullivan

    one thing I’ve noticed is that when singing the usual songs, the performance is somewhat lackluster. But when “Holy God We Praise Thy Name” is played suddenly there is this *sound*, coming I think from the added bass frequencies. The same for other traditional hymns or partriotic hymns.

    Interesting story about “Holy God…”. It was played at a Mass a few months ago in my parish. After Mass, a parishoner told the worship leader how much she enjoyed that hymn. He, on the other hand, was glad it was over “once a year is enough.” When she asked him why, he told her that it was difficult to play; there were different chords one most every word!” When she pointed out that he had played it a little fast, he just kind of shurgged.

  • Joe F

    I was wondering if any of the music directors out there have tried using the Taize music. We use it in our parish and people really resond to it. It has all the beauty of chant; it’s repetitive and easy to sing with they words being sometimes in English, sometimes in Latin and other languages. Taize seems to me to be a contemporary take on chant Maybe Taize could be intersperced with other contemporary music at Mass to draw in the more traditional folks. Just a thought.

  • Francis
  • Paul S.

    Some of the somgs listed as not so good, I do like. Some others I agree are not so good.

    The songs that I have difficulty with are the ones with loose use of the first person. Some could be rewritten here or there to change the person to be correct; after all I am not God, but some songs sound as if we are saying we are God.

  • Dino

    Getting in a little late on this thread, went one gets a little older, slower comes with it.

    Why men don’t sing at Mass? Sometimes we can’t sing in that register, sometimes we don’t know the songs, sometimes we can’t hear the “music” over the amplified drums.

    When I was in the Army, our chaplain invited the Chad Mitchell Trio to sing at our Masses one Sunday. The were normally folkish, but were musicians enough to know the difference between pop-folk and sacred. The did not sing about Michael and his rowboat, and we were happy, we knew it, but did not show it by clapping our hands. It is possible to be contemporary without the “it’s all about ME” so often found in the music issues featuring the efforts of a team that makes me think of ice cream.

    At the other extreme, we get everything accompanied by a slow droning organ. Ale-zzzzz-lu-zzzzz-ya. It is really difficult to sing when the tempo is so slow that you forget what your started out singing. This is not enhanced by a “recessional” of “When the Saints Go Marching In” played as a funeral dirge.

  • Frankie J.

    Great article, Mr. Tucker !

  • Anne

    We are so fortunate that we belong to a Church which is not a slave to fashion, but rather transcends fashion. And no matter what music I like or dislike, the job of deciding what is “good” music has been taken out of my hands. I have been told, by the highest authority (Jesus’ Church!) exactly which music is of surpassing excellence in the human worship of God… and that all other music decreases in excellence, the further it regresses from that ultimate model. I don’t know what my opinion has to do with anything.

  • listen to silence

    Jeffery, as always, right on target.

    If a parish insists on OCP hymns to the chagrin of some, why not have the “dissenters” request that a priest offer an early said (low) Mass on Sunday? I think I read somewhere that singing is obligatory at ordinary form Sunday Masses. I pray that that rubric changes so people can experience Mass without feeling pressured by pop hymns. I know from my frequent worship at the extraordinary form that there is much to be said for introspection during the quiet parts of the low Mass. Something tells me that these pop hymns are precisely designed to deflect attention away from meditating on the mystery of the liturgy, as if “always doing/singing something” is more important than contemplating the Sacrifice.

  • K

    Hopefully, the garbage they play in most novus ordo parishes will disappear into the dustbin of history.

    They certainly will, but not so quickly that we won’t have to suffer from it our whole lives. Maybe our grandchildren will have it better.

  • Phil Steinacker

    I wonder what instruments the apostles and disciples listened to in the very early days of liturgy. You know…when they were to sing “songs, hymns, and inspired songs.” I have a feeling they did not have organs, nor did they chant.

    Rich,

    Your surmise (above) is, by your own admission, a guess. I provide immediately below an excerpt from an article by Father Fessio relating some detective work he did on that very thought. You may be surprised at what he found (a little leg work beats a self-serving “guess” any day):

    The Mass of Vatican II

    This essay is based on a lecture on the liturgy given by Father Fessio in May, 1999.

    Now, just a little footnote on the Gregorian Chant. In reflecting on these things about Church music, I began to think about the Psalms a few years back. And a very obvious idea suddenly struck me. Why it didn

  • Phil Steinacker

    It’s interesting to me that there are quite a few folsk on this site who easily blast current bishops because they perceive the bishops to be “too progressive” for a number of different reasons.

    Yes, Rich, they ARE “too progressive” because most times they imposed changes in the Mass and its music for which they had no actual authority to make. Removal of Gregorian chant and Latin is an innovation at its origin, and no amount of posturing (and overt lying) by liturgists and their bishops that these bastardizations were authorized by Vatican II can justify them – then or now.

    Why is it so difficult to see that there are many different styles of songs, hymns and inspired songs now, from around the globe? If the instruments and songs of a particular culture are good enough for papal masses, why are they so dreadful now just because they are not ALL organ and/or chant?

    We DO see it, Rich; however, the existence of other styles in no way justifies their imposition on the holiest, most sacred form of worship ever known in Christianity. We’re simply fed up with the farce our liturgical music has become – although I challenge your use of the word “inspired.” Says who? NOT the mind of the Church.

    Most of what I am reading in this thread is about matters of taste, where there really should not be dispute. I know some say it is all about truth, but I disagree. Yes, there are “rules” now, rules that have been laid down about what “liturgical music” ought to be in its “ideal” form, and yes, I have read all of the current liturgical documents. I submit, however, that the Church in her wisdom, has allowed for quite a bit of room for interpretation in this area, much more room that many here will even acknowledge, much less allow.

    No, Rich, that tired, old dig won’t hunt anymore. The “this is just a matter of preference” routine is the refuge of failed argumentation. None of this is about preference at its root – not from our side of the issue; i.e. I actually still prefer to attend the Novus Ordo because it is spiritually easier, but I also understand and accept the spiritual superiority of the TLM over it while I continue to challenge myself to embrace it.

    Gregorian chant, the organ, and Latin are mandated – pianos, guitars, and other instruments are – by definition – profane, vulgar, and vernacular.

    How is it that the Haugen/Hass/OCP/GIA music is used at cathedral masses, and papal liturgies then? Wouldn’t the liturgy police put a kibosh on it? I have seen quite abit of hand wringing over this and I find it to be much ado about very little.

    As already noted, too many prelates have failed as orthodox shepherds. As for papal Masses, it is the custom for the local see to arrange these Masses, and if the ordinary is “progressive” he hands the reigns to fools like those that gave us the Mass in Washington for Benedict XVI. Our dear pontiff – like his predecessor – is a generous and kind man, and he showed great mercy and love by ignoring it.

    Oh, it is especially delicious to see you imply the “liturgy police” are of a traditionalist flavor, when the irrefutable reality is that true and balanced liturgical “diversity” has been virtually non-existent for 39 years.

    So-called “progressive” elements in the Church saw to it that not only was the TLM shut down everywhere possible (and the lie told that it was “abrogated”), the Novus Ordo was stripped completely of both Latin and Gregorian chant (and polyphony) in a direct but dishonest contrvention of the true mandate of Vatican II. The traditionalist “liturgy police” do not , in fact, exist, and never have, but a form of progressive liturgical fascism has usurped that role to forcefully deprive us of our traditions over the years.

    Now, as an uprising of folks fed up with this whole era of deprivation – and the dishonesty associated with it – is taking place, comments like yours are the norm for those seeking to hold the line and preserve your ill-gotten gains. It won’t work – we’ve been reading the actual Vatican II documents, and while we are still divided over how truly infallible they are, it is absolutely certain the good news is that the huge lies told us by progressives (including the “spirit” of Vatican II, liturgists, and their cohort bishops) are finally exposed as such.

    People should go where they get fed. If you appreciate a certain style of liturgy, there is bound to be one close to your liking within 20 miles or so. If not, move to a place where you are fed….you can make it happen, I know you can.

    Yeah, right! Given that all your commentary on this thread has revealed about your agenda, it is hardly a surprise you should close with such a perfectly appropriate endorsement for the “Cafeteria Catholic” solution.

    Peace.

  • Jeff

    Today’s music certainly is garbage, but was it ever any better in the American Church. According to the wonderful book, “Why Catholics Don’t Sing”, the pre-Vatican II songs weren’t much better. Since the Church was mainly led by Irish clerics, who had no liturgical musical heritage, American Catholic music pretty much sounded like the sentimental Irish ballads familiar to the primarily Irish priests and laity. None of my older relatives can sing anything from back then, although they certainly remember the popular standards of the 30s and 40s, so I guess it wasn’t that memorable. I really don’t know what I would want in the way of Church music, but I know that I absolutely hate what we have now.

  • Jack

    Firstly I’ll say that I’m a big fan of Rock and Heavy Metal music so I don’t hate those styles but I totally agree that they DO NOT belong in Mass they’re entertainment and I don’t go to Mass for a Rock concert, plus all their songs are horrible and sappy. I’m Sixteen and I think that life teen is insulting and horrible and that they need to bring back the chant!

  • Joe S.

    Isn’t the evil corrupt company that runs/owns Detroit in “Robocop” called OCP?

  • Will D. Side

    I am new on a liturgical committee and am looking forward to addressing the issues of bad music at Mass. Judging by the makeup of the this committee which includes mostly over 50’s types along with one liberated nun, and a particular coffee house guitarist/croaker of banal OCP ditties, I am sure my arguments will fall on deaf ears, hence the reason why Coffee Boy has the gig.

  • borg catholic

    My problem with the OCP is their preference for Spanish over all other languages.

    In our parish we should be able to mutilate some German Beethoven just like we mash Spanish.

    The Catholic Church should be catholic in language.

    One verse of Latin, then switch to English.

    One verse of Spanish, then switch to English.

    German, Italian, Swahili,all are good; we can sing any one as badly as another. Our septugenarians fall out over a calypso beat.

    God loves us anyway.

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