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Sunday, April 14, 2013

What's Your Pet Catholic Peeve? Mine: Bad Church Music!

One of mine is bad liturgical music. We have been getting it a lot at my parish since we got a new organist who couldn't wait to switch to the GATHER hymnal. Now we get heretical (and just plain banal) songs on a regular basis. You know...the "hymns" about how we take the bread and wine. (NOT! After the Consecration we receive the BODY and BLOOD of Our Lord. There is no more "bread and wine," only its appearance.) Then there are the pitifully inept lyrics. We care, we share, there's "hope in our despair." (Another heretical idea: despair is a SIN against hope.)

I had hoped the bad music was going to disappear with the liturgical changes, but some things are harder to get rid of than poison ivy and the 70s and 80s cabaret style "hymns" seems to be among them. One of this morning's choices had lyrics so ridiculous I couldn't sing them. I wouldn't have been able to stop laughing!

Don't get me wrong.Some of these songs have nice catchy tunes, but they could as easily be sung in a cocktail lounge or added to a Broadway show. They are about as "liturgical" as American Bandstand (I know, I'm dating myself.). If you find yourself wanting to sway to the music, it probably isn't appropriate for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

This is not an insignificant issue. Many terrible things have been fostered using music. Martin Luther wrote hymns to spread his bad theology. One of the reasons the Aryan heresy took the world by storm was through song. Think of the impact of rock music on kids spreading immoral lifestyles, violence, etc. Think of M-TV. Music can easily embed in the subconscious spreading ideas that are just plain wrong. (Remember these lyrics: "It can't be wrong cuz it feels so right?")

Read more about "bad poetry, bad theology" here.

Here is a perfect example of all the above problems: Marty Haugen. Does this belong in the Mass?


Adrienne said...

Besides the truly horrible music, number 2 would be holding hands at the Our Father.

Of course, I don't have to put up with any of that anymore since we attend a FSSP parish.

Carlos Caso-Rosendi said...

I share your feelings. I think we forgot the difference between profane and sacred. I must say that Americans have contributed largely to this problem by promoting the hippie culture of informality. If the President invites us to the White House we dress to the hilt. To meet and commune with the Ruler of the Universe: shorts and sandals. We are the Church of Incoherence.

mama T said...

I read your other post first so now I see that you really don't like the more modern church music. I love the Gather book and find the songs contained within it to be wonderfully appropriate in the Mass. My biggest pet peeve is people who wish things were as they were before Vatican 2. Latin Mass? Bah! Women covering their heads? Silly! Modern does not mean unfaithful. And I love holding hands with my husband and children as we pray the Our Father. We hold hands when we pray before meals and bedtime, so why not as we pray the universal prayer with our parish? My last pet peeve would be people who receive the Eucharist on the tongue. This one made me stop being a Eucharistic minister. It is Jesus, but the receiver is full of germs!

Anonymous said...

well, don't expect things to improve with our new pope. Under Pope Benedict we were headed in the right direciton at least, but now it is back to the slovenly seventies.

Anonymous said...

I agree completely that these songs and their ilk belong nowhere near the mass. In fact, I would say that they should never be sung in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. I believe it was Fr. Z who said something that struck me very much in light of this subject. He said the mass is solemn - not solemn as we've come to tend to think of it, kind of an Oliver Twist type solemn, as in child-who-has -never-seen-a-happy-day-in-his-life solemn. That’s grave and somber, not solemn. Solemn is a king’s coronation, a royal banquet, a formal event with deep meaning behind it that cannot be taken lightly, but it is also joyful and life-filled. Traditional music highlights this in the mass; contemporary music turns the mass into a pep rally; it’s upbeat and animated in a clap-your-hands way. Fr. Z compared it to a wedding, which is a solemn event but is overflowing with silent, vibrant joy. At the reception, however, it’s going to be filled with laughter and rowdy excitement.

I’m going to proffer an extension or nuance of this topic, however. I’m a fiercely traditional Catholic. Over the years I have been to parishes or masses that used contemporary music at the mass, and it drives me crazy. I came to detest that music because of the irreverence I associated with it, so even when I heard it outside the mass I had an aversion for it. Recently, however, I have been introduced to contemporary music in what I now consider its proper context: a group of people gathered OUTSIDE OF THE SANCTUARY AND NOT IN THE PRESENCE OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT who want to praise God.

Song is almost universally a natural way to express joy. I, for one, will start singing snatches of favorite songs whenever I’m in a good mood. While it most assuredly should NOT be the only element of a time meant for prayer of praise, a contemporary song or two can be an uplifting way for a group to unite together in praise of God. I tend toward silent prayer and have noticed that I spend too much time making petitions instead of thanking and praising God. While I still very much desire and do such prayer, I have recently discovered that, on appropriate occasion, singing a couple praise and worship songs with a group of friends gathered together for the purpose of praising God helps orient me toward praise. It gets me outside of myself a bit and lets me experience the external joy that naturally forms in a group engaged wholeheartedly in such activity. That sense of joy creates a kind of spiritual springboard into praise, because it becomes very natural to say, “Thank you, God, for letting me praise You and find joy in You with these people.”

I still am very much geared toward the traditional music, and when I am by myself and I want to praise God I usually start singing Latin hymns or chants. However, contemporary music, as a supplement to prayer intended to praise God, in a group outside of a church setting away from the Blessed Sacrament, can be a uniting way of joining together for a few minutes in praise before focusing more on individual or contemplative prayer.

Basically, my bottom line: contemporary music is like an open can of paint; it MUST be handled with care. You can use the paint sparingly and properly to make something beautiful, but use too much, use it improperly, or splatter or spill it, and you've made a terrible, hideous mess. If you don't use it at all, you'll still have a pristine canvas. If used properly, you can make the canvas even more beautiful, but care must be taken and the paint must be mixed with other colors to make a picture. Make a mistake, and you've made a horrible mess. So keep it in its proper place.

Just thought I’d proffer the opinion of a die-hard traddy (a.k.a. traditionalist) on contemporary music. And thanks for talking about this; it really is something that needs to be fixed.

God bless!
A Die-hard Traddy

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

I agree, Die-Hard. I have no problem with most of the music per se. Some of it is very catchy as I said. But much of it is "entertainment" music, not appropriate for liturgical settings. The Mass is NOT about entertainment. It's about worship. When people argue "Oh, I LOVE that music!" They are more focused on themselves than they are on God. Dance hall music is great in the dance hall, not at the Mass. But I agree with your point about praise music in a prayer meeting setting. The big Rescue Rallies before the mass sit-ins at abortion mills used to be like that.

Kathy said...

The music at our parish is hideous. To mama T. I'm glad You stopped being a Eucharistic minister. One of my pet peeves is trying to receive from someone who has no clue how to administer the host correctly on the tongue. Do You drink out of the common cup? There might be a few germs in there too. I truly wonder how many people You encounter who wear veils and object to hand holding during mass. Perhaps this is your chance to get a little dig into those who like to adhere to older displays of reverence and piety. Why do You care? Most masses are the way You like it. I'm not sure what You mean by "faithful", but modernism is an obstacle to living a devout catholic life.

Anonymous said...

I am afraid that the traditional music is often mostly entertainment as well. When I lived in Vienna I always went to Mass at either the Jesuitenkirke or the Augustinkirke, both famous for their Mozart (and other classical) Mass settings with orchestra and choir. It was lovely. But while I was there to praise God, most people were there for the music. So I think this argument goes both ways.

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

"I am afraid that the traditional music is often mostly entertainment as well."

Good point. Well...I would be happy with a little silence...during Communion for example. Let people have time to speak to the God whom they have just received in the silence of their hearts.

c matt said...

Music is a big pet peeve, but your last comment is just as close - lack of silence. It seems like every second of a typical N.O. Mass has to have some noise filling it. Very annoying.

Tom Saltsman said...

I think "inappropriate" would be a better adjective here than "bad." At least the musicians sound like they don't necessarily need day jobs. ("I'll have a martini, extra dry, thank you.") I've been to very large Catholic parishes where the cantors for Sunday mass could not even read music or sing in tune. We should also not forget the influence of Protestant music in many evangelical churches. Additionally, women who refuse to veil as Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition have demanded for centuries forfeit any right to complain about "liberal" or "casual" changes to the once holy atmosphere of the mass. They publicly flout their unbelief or ignorance of I Corinthians 11.