Show Music in Church The


Show Music in Church

The point of this is not to complain about music, but to speculate about what it might ultimately do. Yesterday I returned to the parish I had long attended because I needed to get to an earlier mass than I can normally attend at the local Shrine. My local parish hands out the bulletins at the beginning of Mass, assuring that for most people Mass preparation time is spent reading up on the events of the coming week. This has always been the case--mildly disturbing, but as it tended to keep people quiet, not anything worth making a fuss about in itself.

Later when I glanced through the bulletin, I discovered seminars in centering prayer (about which I am uncertain--I try to weigh all of the authorities on either side. I think that it is something that too easily slips into gimmickry and method--though M. Basil Pennington, a major proponent of Centering Prayer, insists that it is not). Much more bothersome, and becoming nearly epidemic, I read that the Women's Group of the parish was going to spend a morning "walking the labyrinth" at some nearby locality. This I find more profoundly disturbing. Again, it is perhaps without cause. But these kinds of things remind me profoundly of days when I was more associated with Pagan and Wiccan types who performed similar rituals. I know as well that walking and praying can be a very effective combination, so I suppose much of this is a matter of the emphasis of the individual.

But more disturbing and disheartening than all of this was the service itself. While still ostensibly solidly orthodox and faithful, the music consisted of a series of show-tune like melodies that seemed more for the exaltation of the cantor than for the spiritual setting of Mass. Much of the music was simply unsingable--consisting of strings of staggered triplets that spanned far too many octaves for a normal congregation to embrace. More, I noted a common strain in that they seemed to exalt the individual rather than God.

In moments like these, the heartsickness of some who lament the paucity of Latin settings for the Mass is driven home hard. In my mnd, fairly or unfairly, I have associated the music program from this once-magnificent parish with elements such as labyrinth walking and centering prayer. The whole brew seems a little off to me. Discordant elements tend to breed discordant elements.

I know that it need not be this way because the Parish wasn't this way before, nor is the Shrine I attend at all like this. But it seems to me that once this element has crept into a celebration, it tends to poison the entire system. I don't know that labyrinth-walking can be said to be poison, but it at least gives off fumes that strike one as dangerous.

All of this is a way of supporting those who fight hard to maintain their parishes' integrity in the Mass. It is to lend some support to those who would give us masses with Chant rather than the modern song books. It is to say that while complaint is still not the better way, constructive action undertaken to reform is absolutely necessary--and that action might take the form of a letter to the Pastor of the Church.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on August 25, 2003 7:52 AM.

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