Thursday, June 22, 2006

A break in the action

Well, we have been so hard at work at the Musica Sacra colloquium that we saw nothing of the comings or goings of the prelates and potentates at the installation/enthronement of the new Archbishop of Washington, Donald Wuerl. No, we have had our faces buried in our Liberes Cantualis (correct Latin?) and sheets of polyphony all day, pausing only for a beautiful Missa defunctis tota cantata.

One might wonder, why do we do this? I confess, this is even harder than I thought it would be, and it is tempting to do as many priests do, and say, "I've got so many other things to do, I just won't be any good at this, so why bother?"

But I believe the liturgy deserves our very best. I believe we are constantly tempted to forget, or lose touch with, the transcendent, throughout our lives, including in our worship. My lay brothers and sisters, correct me if I am wrong, but lay folks coming to Mass on Sundays and holy days, are even more hard-pressed to touch heaven. If we do not do all that we reasonably may to foster a truly other-worldly experience of Mass, we who are charged with this duty--meaning clergy, and all those who take special roles in liturgy--are failing the people we claim to serve.

Also, we do this because we have a great treasure, an inaestimabilum donum in the music and prayers and liturgy of the Church, and we must share it! Recall the parable of the man who built great storehouses for his grain, and the Lord said, "thou fool, this very night your life will be required of you!" It is rather presumptuous to say, "oh, they won't want it"; really, how do you know; and further, is it really for you to say?

There is a sobriety to the Roman liturgy, but in recent decades, that has become aridity. People flock to music stores to buy cds of chant--what does that say?


Anonymous said...

Right you are, Father. The USCCB would do better if they promoted good music then to think up 60 ammendments to screw up the liturgy.

Todd said...

People buying chant cd's? Hopefully it means something more than plainsong as an entertainment experience. I trust that it does, but more compelling are your adventures in producing your own sounds of singing. The trick is to pass on that sense of adventure to the people in parishes. I believe it can be done, because the liturgy is more about the right music being done by the experts alone.

Fr Martin Fox said...


One can infer many things from the datum that people are buying chant CDs, without those inferences being clearly demonstrative. That said, I will assert that their buying them shows the beauty and power of that music; that people crave the peace and -- yes, healing -- that such an encounter with beauty can provide; and that there is something wrong when one is more likely to hear chant outside a Catholic church, than in one.

I agree with you that music must invite participation from the people; that doesn't mean they always have to sing along.

Anonymous said...

Don't accuse us of being without adventure, taste or gumption. Laypeople are sick and tired of being maligned by liturgists. We know good music when we hear it. That's why we buy it. If only the piano players at church would get some taste and learn how to carry a tune, we'd be glad to hear it there too.