25 February 2012

I'd Like a Mass with Sacred Music Please

For the most part, I don't like praise & worship music. I like music that praises and worships God, but I don't really like the genre of praise & worship music. A few artist can pull it off, like Glenn Kaiser, Steve Bell, and, of course, John Michael Talbot. (Petra's pretty good at taking praise & worship music and making it into rock music, but then it isn't really praise & worship music anymore.) Aside, from these, and maybe a few others I'm not familiar with, I think praise & worship music sounds awful. To me it sounds like very poorly done secular music with religious lyrics.

Another type of music I don't like is religious folk music. Again, to me it sounds like very poorly done secular folk music with religious lyrics, even when it's done with an organ (I think with an organ it qualifies as a new genre).

What kind of music do we get at a Roman Catholic Mass? I can't say I've heard much of anything except praise & worship music, religious folk music, and even religious rock music. There have been some exceptions, particularly at my cathedral and some of the music at Easter Vigil, but they are very few.

What kind of music would I like to hear at Mass? Sacred music.

Sacred music is a particular genre, and it is not just any music with a sacred text. The music itself is sacred. As well, there are many different types of sacred music, especially in the East.

This is one of the things I like about going to an Eastern Divine Liturgy. The only kind of music they have at a Divine Liturgy is sacred music. It is always chanted a cappella, which is nice, but I also like the use of instruments, such as the organ, which is supposed to be the tradition in the West. Actually, it is the tradition in the West, we're just not following our own tradition.

When did this profane music get introduced into the Roman Catholic Mass? It was introduce by those pushing the political agenda usually called the Spirit of Vatican II. In case you don't know, the Spirit of Vatican II has nothing to do with the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, nor the documents of that council. In fact, the Spirit of Vatican II usually contradicts the documents of Vatican II. Here's an example from Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy):
112. The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as sacred song united to the words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy.

Holy Scripture, indeed, has bestowed praise upon sacred song, and the same may be said of the fathers of the Church and of the Roman pontiffs who in recent times, led by St. Pius X, have explained more precisely the ministerial function supplied by sacred music in the service of the Lord.

Therefore sacred music is to be considered the more holy in proportion as it is more closely connected with the liturgical action, whether it adds delight to prayer, fosters unity of minds, or confers greater solemnity upon the sacred rites. But the Church approves of all forms of true art having the needed qualities, and admits them into divine worship.

Accordingly, the sacred Council, keeping to the norms and precepts of ecclesiastical tradition and discipline, and having regard to the purpose of sacred music, which is the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful, decrees as follows.
Notice it says sacred music and not praise & worship music or folk music. It goes on to say this:
114. The treasure of sacred music is to be preserved and fostered with great care. Choirs must be diligently promoted, especially in cathedral churches; but bishops and other pastors of souls must be at pains to ensure that, whenever the sacred action is to be celebrated with song, the whole body of the faithful may be able to contribute that active participation which is rightly theirs, as laid down in Art. 28 and 30.
You may still not know what sacred music is; this quote give the name of the most important sacred music in the West:
116. The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services. But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action, as laid down in Art. 30.
I don't think I've ever heard authentic Gregorian chant at an actual mass; only on my CDs and at concerts.

You might like to know what Article 30 says, so here it is:
30. To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes. And at the proper times all should observe a reverent silence.
How are people supposed to actively participate in chanting Gregorian chant when many Catholics have never even heard Gregorian chant, let alone at Mass? Actually, Articles 117 and 118 tells us how:
117. The typical edition of the books of Gregorian chant is to be completed; and a more critical edition is to be prepared of those books already published since the restoration by St. Pius X.

It is desirable also that an edition be prepared containing simpler melodies, for use in small churches.

118. Religious singing by the people is to be intelligently fostered so that in devotions and sacred exercises, as also during liturgical services, the voices of the faithful may ring out according to the norms and requirements of the rubrics.
There's a little bit of Gregorian chant in one of my parish's hymnals, but the only time it's ever used is a few times at Easter Vigil and the Sunday Responsorial Psalm or Canticle, and even then it doesn't always sound like Gregorian chant.

There must be something in Vatican II that gives the idea that we can use praise & worship music or folk music? Yes, that comes next:
119. In certain parts of the world, especially mission lands, there are peoples who have their own musical traditions, and these play a great part in their religious and social life. For this reason due importance is to be attached to their music, and a suitable place is to be given to it, not only in forming their attitude toward religion, but also in adapting worship to their native genius, as indicated in Art. 39 and 40.

Therefore, when missionaries are being given training in music, every effort should be made to see that they become competent in promoting the traditional music of these peoples, both in schools and in sacred services, as far as may be practicable.
Aren't the Americas mission lands, and don't we listen to folk music and rock music? Well, yes... but these genres developed after the Americas stopped being mission lands and the majority of people in these lands came from Europe, where the musical tradition is Gregorian chant and Byzantine chant (the Byzantine Rite is one of the Eastern Rites). If we were to apply Article 119 to the Americas, we'd be using the traditional music of the indigenous peoples of America who were here before the Europeans came. I've never heard this kind of music at Mass. I've been to a First Nations Mass a few times, and the music they use is country music, which is not really related to their traditional music.

Of course, I wouldn't want to hide Articles 39 and 40 from you:
39. Within the limits set by the typical editions of the liturgical books, it shall be for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, to specify adaptations, especially in the case of the administration of the sacraments, the sacramentals, processions, liturgical language, sacred music, and the arts, but according to the fundamental norms laid down in this Constitution.

40. In some places and circumstances, however, an even more radical adaptation of the liturgy is needed, and this entails greater difficulties. Wherefore:

1) The competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, must, in this matter, carefully and prudently consider which elements from the traditions and culture of individual peoples might appropriately be admitted into divine worship. Adaptations which are judged to be useful or necessary should when be submitted to the Apostolic See, by whose consent they may be introduced.

2) To ensure that adaptations may be made with all the circumspection which they demand, the Apostolic See will grant power to this same territorial ecclesiastical authority to permit and to direct, as the case requires, the necessary preliminary experiments over a determined period of time among certain groups suited for the purpose.

3) Because liturgical laws often involve special difficulties with respect to adaptation, particularly in mission lands, men who are experts in these matters must be employed to formulate them.
I've searched, and I've never found and documentation of consent from the Apostolic See for rock music, folk music, or even praise amp; worship music in Mass.

By the way, Article 22, 2 reads as:
2. In virtue of power conceded by the law, the regulation of the liturgy within certain defined limits belongs also to various kinds of competent territorial bodies of bishops legitimately established.
In Canada, that's the CCCB, and in the States, that's the USCCB. Neither of which have issued any official sanctions of rock music, folk music, or praise & worship music in Mass.

What kind of musical instruments should be used at Mass?
120. In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church's ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man's mind to God and to higher things.

But other instruments also may be admitted for use in divine worship, with the knowledge and consent of the competent territorial authority, as laid down in Art. 22, 52, 37, and 40. This may be done, however, only on condition that the instruments are suitable, or can be made suitable, for sacred use, accord with the dignity of the temple, and truly contribute to the edification of the faithful.
There you go, "other instruments also may be admitted for use in divine worship." Guitar, drums and electric bass are just fine, right?

Well, not really. These instruments are not suitable, nor can they "be made suitable, for sacred use, accord with the dignity of the temple, and truly contribute to the edification of the faithful." These are profane instruments, and not well suited for sacred use. They do not lift up man's mind to God and to higher things but make him want to dance and feel the grove in his body, that is, to base things.

Pope St. Pius X (remember, Vatican II referenced him earlier) addresses this in his Motu ProprioTra Le Sollecitudini (Instruction on Sacred Music):
19. The employment of the piano is forbidden in church, as is also that of noisy or frivolous instruments such as drums, cymbals, bells and the like.

20. It is strictly forbidden to have bands play in church, and only in special cases with the consent of the Ordinary will it be permissible to admit wind instruments, limited in number, judiciously used, and proportioned to the size of the place-provided the composition and accompaniment be written in grave and suitable style, and conform in all respects to that proper to the organ.

21. In processions outside the church the Ordinary may give permission for a band, provided no profane pieces be executed. It would be desirable in such cases that the band confine itself to accompanying some spiritual canticle sung in Latin or in the vernacular by the singers and the pious associations which take part in the procession.
Now this was in 1903, and I'm sure the pope couldn't foresee what would happen in the Mass after the 1960s, and most people will dismiss this Motu Proprio. I myself think piano could be respectfully used in Mass, and that St. Pius X was just concerned with performance music at mass. But then, what do I know. Between 18 and 20 years ago, I played drums in a band that performed the music at Mass in my parish once a month. I really didn't know how inappropriate this was, as I'm sure most people that do this are quite ignorant of the facts as I've laid out above.

What I'd like to see is another authoritative document from a modern pope forbidding profane music in the Mass. I'm note so sure this will happen, as the documents already exists; they're just being ignored. Pope Bl. John Paul II came close with his Chirograph for the Centenary for the Motu Proprio "Tra Le Sollecitudini" on Sacred Music, which renewed the words of Pope St. Pius X. However, this really didn't make much difference in my parish life.

Some of the music is getting better, but there's still a lot of folk music and even some rock music. The rock music is particularly disturbing. I mean it actually disturbs one of the main reasons I go to Mass: to pray. Sacred Music not only helps you pray, it is prayer. Rock music, even with religious or prayerful lyrics, disturbs and distracts me from prayer. It should be obvious to everyone that anything that disturbs and distracts from prayer really doesn't belong in the Mass.

There is hope though. This is the article that prompted me to write this blog post: Bringing Sacred Music Back to Liturgy. I believe that if people get exposed to sacred music, they'll want it back in the Mass. Buy a CD of Gregorian chant, go to an Eastern Divine Liturgy. I've even got a few useful links on my website (they're not all for sacred music). Sacred music will bring you closer to God, search it out.

By the way, I really like Dave Brubeck's jazz Mass, To Hope! A Celebration, but no, even this isn't sacred Music. It's a great CD though.