View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Musing about music

Synod Might Reconsider Liturgical Music
Working Paper Suggests Return to More Prayerful Hymns

VATICAN CITY, JULY 22, 2005 ( The working paper of the next Synod of Bishops suggests that "songs used at present" in the liturgy should "be reconsidered."

(I can think of a few songs that need to be reconsidered…)

The proposal appears in No. 60 of the working document for the assembly of bishops from all over the world, which will be held Oct. 2-23 in Rome, on the theme "The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church."

Based on responses from dioceses, religious and the laity to a questionnaire, the text acknowledges in No. 61 that "to enter into sacred or religious usage, instrumental or vocal music is to have a sense of prayer, dignity and beauty."

(Of course, what might lead to prayer in one person might lead to sleep or a headache in another. Who will define what “dignity” is? And “beauty”? If the only cantor you can get has a voice that, well, only a mother superior could love, do we just forego music? Or do we accept enthusiasm and spirit – if not pitch – as part of “beauty?)

In the liturgy, music must have "integrity of form, expressing true artistry, corresponding to the various rites and capable of adaptation to the legitimate demands of inculturation, … without detracting from the idea of universality," the document states.

(Personally, I love it when my mostly Italian parish tries a Spanish or African hymn. I don’t think, though, that they’re quite up to Gospel yet!)

The working paper, published July 7, outlines the topics that the bishops will discuss during the assembly.

In connection with the question of liturgical singing, the paper states that "musicians and poets should be encouraged to compose new hymns, according to liturgical standards, which contain authentic catechetical teaching on the paschal mystery, Sunday and the Eucharist."

(“Allelu, Allelu, everybody sing Allelu, for the Lord has risen, in it is true! Everybody sing Allelu” … )

Gregorian chant

In particular, the document suggests the rediscovery of Gregorian chant, as it "fulfills these needs" and, therefore, can "serve as a model," quoting Pope John Paul II.

In No. 61, the text states that in the responses to the questionnaire with which they concluded the synod's first preparatory text, "some lamented the poor quality of translations of liturgical texts and many musical texts in current languages, maintaining that they lacked beauty and were sometimes theologically unclear, thereby contributing to a weakening of Church teaching and to a misunderstanding of prayer."

The paper refers in particular to youth Masses, stressing the need "to avoid musical forms which, because of their profane use, are not conducive to prayer."

(HMM. Rock music? [“Born in the Holy Land. He was, Born in the Holy Land…”] Rap? [“Let me tell you a story of a Jew named `J’, the Son of God with a lot to say…”])

"Some responses," it adds, "note a certain eagerness in composing new songs, to the point of almost yielding to a consumer mentality, showing little concern for the quality of the music and text, and easily overlooking the artistic patrimony which has been theologically and musically effective in the Church's liturgy."


Joking aside, I’d be curious to see what they have to say.

And, as I’ve said before, I’d like to know what cds Pope Benedict has in his collection.

Given his pet preferences, maybe we’d find a copy of Cats!


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