Friday, September 23, 2011

Music Wars

I may have mentioned that I normally attend Sunday Mass at a small mission church in a nearby town that is also served by the priest in my city.  The only music is provided by a small pick-up choir and two guitar players.  There is an elderly organ, but there has been no one to play it in many years.  The situation in this church is simply: No Guitar = No Music.

So far, being a convert and not feeling really comfortable wading into the war being waged in the Catholic blogosphere about liturgy and music, I have not commented on this.  It appears that the post-conciliar "folk mass" may soon be a thing of the past and that we may have to put away our guitars and bone up on our Latin and Gregorian Chant.

Every time I see something about music at mass, I have been forwarding it to our parish music leader.  Last Sunday he gave me an article from Oregon Catholic Publishers ("OCP") who publish the Journey Hymnal which our parish uses.  It appears that they are not going to go quietly into the night and retire all those songs by the Saint Louis Jesuits in favor of Gregorian Chant.  The author, Elaine Rendler-McQueeny, writes:

". . . in these next few columns, I'll sketch a plan for teaching some new music and offer pointers on how these missal changes give us an opportunity for parish liturgical renewal.
Much has been said about the departure of Catholics from their parishes. . . . "those who have left Catholicism outnumber those who have joined the Catholic Church by nearly a four-to-one margin."  . . . Of those who joined a Protestant religion after Catholicism, when asked why they converted 81% of former Catholics named the enjoyment of services and worship style as the most common reason for selecting that particular church.
Perhaps we should focus some of our evangelization efforts on the retention of Catholics, including young adults, rather than on their reasons for leaving. . . ." 

I can already envision the comment boxes filling up with comments that Catholics don't go to Mass to be entertained.  We go to Mass to Worship God and anybody that would leave the Church which Christ founded, and in which Christ's sacramental presence dwells, because they like the praise music at the Pentecostal Church down the road wasn't really Catholic to begin with.

As  a convert, I am kind of astounded that I hear some of the most vehement resistance to Latin and Chant from cradle Catholics.  I don't have a point to make, it's just interesting.  As a convert, I am still in love with the mystical romanticism of Gregorian Chant.  I often keep a chant CD going in the background to help me calm down.  However, I think that there is a happy middle ground somewhere between total chant and totally abolishing modern music.  I don't think that every praise song written from the sixties, seventies and eighties has to be banned from the celebration of the Mass.  Some of them are quite worshipful.  In my lifetime, I have heard very reverent guitar music and very bad organ playing.  There should be room in Christ's Church, which after all encompasses the whole world and everything in it, for both.


  1. It's an interesting topic. I'd be lying if I said I didn't care about music styles..........people are moved by music. They care even if they're not vocal like you and me.

  2. I say "Amen" to that perspective. I have known people all my life, Christian's in fact, whose broken hearts have been healed by words from songs sung by modern Christian "pop" artists. K-LOVE, the nationally known Christian Music station, is very positive, and has helped many across the globe. Their listening audience includes people of ALL ages, from all backgrounds, who enjoy the upbeat Christian music of today. Many lives have been turned to Jesus, NOT AWAY FROM, due to the leadership and example of these Christian artists. These Christian artists, through their concerts and outreach programs, have brought the word of God to oppressed cultures all over the world who have never heard of Jesus. I seriously doubt that Jesus himself, would be SO NARROW MINDED, as to not give these folks a "thumbs up" for their deep reaching music, their passion for HIM, and their desire to bring the word to everyone and anyone who will listen.