sacred music

EWTN Prevails Against the HHS Contraception Mandate

On October 5, 2018, the government admitted they were wrong to persecute the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). The admission came in a settlement in EWTN’s long-drawn-out lawsuit regarding the Contraception Mandate attached to Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA). As a result of the settlement, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated (i.e., withdrew) [...]

Why Traditional Hymns are Superior to Modern Ones

I’m sometimes accused, when I write about bad hymns, of wanting to impose a single style upon everyone. I find this strange. It’s like saying that all classical music sounds the same, and that Bach, Brahms, Dvorak, and Debussy are all the same. I point out that the hymns in a good hymnal were composed [...]

Music and the Education of the Christian Soul

In Plato’s Republic, Socrates leads a group of ambitious young Athenians on a search for the best way of life. Their verbal construction of a perfectly just regime is not motivated by idealism, real or feigned, but by genuine perplexity about the one thing human beings cannot help desiring: happiness. Glaucon, Adeimantus, and their companions [...]

Millennials Spur Liturgical Restoration in Western Canada

This may sound like the start of a “shaggy-dog” story: So … there are these three Western Canadian bishops at a Catholic youth conference called “One Rock 2.0.” The bishops are prepping for a Town Hall, a “Q and A” session with a tough audience, 620 millennials aged 18-35, and the episcopi are steeling themselves for [...]

Longing for Eternal Presence

It is this silent swerving from accuracy by an inch that is the uncanny element in everything.  ∼ G.K. Chesterton In the digital age of LED lighting, we risk losing all sense of the uncanny. Of course, in the age of science in general, we tend to grow numb to the mystery that calls us [...]

When Will Our Priests Sing Again?

Imagine the scene, if you dare—for some readers this might be triggering or flat-out traumatic. There he is, a once-young, now-aging priest celebrating Mass, arriving at the homily, with Britney Spears headset microphone in place, center “stage” (er … Sanctuary), ready to “share” (not a homily, God forbid!), dripping and gushing with vacuous platitudes and, [...]

Novus Quodlibet: The New Whatever Liturgy

I have attended the Novus Ordo Mass all my life. I do not believe it was necessarily a mistake to have the Mass translated into the vernacular so that people could more readily understand the words and actions. Yet I have great sympathy for people who flock to, or flee to, the traditional rite, and [...]

Restore Liturgical Beauty with Chant and Polyphony

The tragedy of the loss of beauty in liturgy is not something which we should dismiss lightly, for if there is one thing we can glean from Scripture, and from the Church's two millennia of Tradition, it is that we should offer the very best to God in our worship of him; yet what we [...]

Abandoning Latin Changed Liturgical Music … for the Worse

After 35 years as a liturgical musician, it’s amazing how little I really know about the liturgical music of the Roman Rite. Then again, what should I expect when my earliest memories of music at Mass tend to involve now-forgotten attempts to make Ray Repp tunes, guitar-group versions of Beatles songs, social-justice-pop-folk songs, and patently [...]

Liturgy and the Dance Band on the Titanic

I'm in the dance band on the Titanic Sing "Nearer, my God, to Thee" The iceberg's on the starboard bow Won't you dance with me.                   ∼ Harry Chapin, 1977 Back in the late 1970s, when I was an impressionable young lad, I was introduced to the [...]

The Sacred Music of Stravinsky

“Music praises God. Music is well or better able to praise him than the building of the church in all its decoration; it is the church's greatest ornament.”  ∼ Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) Igor Stravinsky is everyone's idea of a “modern composer.” The riot that accompanied the premiere of his 1913 ballet The Rite of Spring has [...]

Beethoven and the Catholic Church

Ludwig van Beethoven, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart form the great trinity of Western classical composers. Of the three, it is Beethoven whose religious beliefs have proven the most elusive. We know all about the devout Lutheranism of Bach, who wrote his music “for the glory of God and the refreshment of the [...]

When An Opera Is Like a Vatican II Liturgy

Years (and years) ago I went to an opera in Graz, Austria—I guess the American equivalent to this is going to see the Boston Red Sox play at Fenway Park (if you are a huge baseball fan) or Ricky Skaggs play the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, if you are a big country-western aficionado. Anyway, [...]

No Pentecost Liturgy Should Exclude the Veni Sancte Spiritus

Something beautiful is supposed to happen on Pentecost, though you might miss it. The culmination of the Easter season offers us a gem of sacred art: Veni Sancte Spiritus, the Pentecost sequence, which has long been regarded as one of the most magnificent works of literature in the Church’s treasury. When set to appropriate music, [...]

Rescuing Hymnody from Stupidity

Hunkering down during the latest snowstorm, my family and I had to attend Mass via television. We saw a nationally broadcast Mass that wasn't heretical, but that was an emblem of just about everything that I have criticized in my last two articles, on vocations. In particular, the little girl (and one boy) choir sang [...]

A “Liturgy Snob” Answers Her Critics

Last week I wrote a piece here on Crisis about good liturgy and its effect on the minds of children. It provoked a number of strong reactions, with some positive and others very critical. This is unsurprising. All liturgy-lovers have heard these critiques before, because they arise as a matter of course whenever liturgical practice [...]

Liturgical Wisdom from the Mouths of Children

This past Yuletide, my husband and I decided to escape the Minnesota winter by taking our family to South Texas. We had a joyfully green Christmas, with our children running wild on the beach while the Gulf of Mexico lapped at our toes. We didn’t miss the snow. Of course, there are always drawbacks to [...]

Obedience and the Christian Life

There is no way around it: the Christian's life is to be one of obedience. “Let him who has ears to hear, hear,” says Jesus. That does not mean that we are beholden only to God, under our own understanding of who God is and what He wants from us. God in His mercy does [...]

Love for Latin Liturgy More than a Fashion

As a lover of traditional liturgy, I was momentarily excited by a report last week that, for once in my life, I might actually be hip to the trends. It would be a nearly-unprecedented thing for me, and I’m still not sure how to feel about it. But according to a recent second-hand report, Pope [...]

Symbolism and the Language of the Liturgy

In his conversations with the journalist Bill Moyers, the mythologist Joseph Campbell commented on the power of lived symbolism in communal life. When the judge comes out in a black robe, sits behind a high desk and calls the court to order with a gavel he is no longer an ordinary man. He is the [...]

Palestrina: Master in Music’s Art

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina was an Italian layman who was born around 1525 at or near Rome, into a world in which most the greatest musicians and composers of Europe were clerics, and disproportionately from Northern Europe.  By his death in 1594, two of the other three most important composers in Europe, the Lowlander Orlandus [...]

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