Monthly Archives: May 2017

If I Had A Hammer…

I’d cave some liturgical music reformer’s skulls in!    There!  I said it.

Father John Zuhlsdorf brought this article from CRISIS to our attention:

Abandoning Latin Changed Liturgical Music … for the Worse

After 35 years as a liturgical musician, it’s amazing how little I really know about the liturgical music of the Roman Rite.

Then again, what should I expect when my earliest memories of music at Mass tend to involve now-forgotten attempts to make Ray Repp tunes, guitar-group versions of Beatles songs, social-justice-pop-folk songs, and patently juvenile compositions like “Sons of God” and “Here We Are” seem at home in the most august Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?

When it comes to the “hermeneutic of discontinuity,” I lived the experience. Yet, despite the poverty of my personal liturgical roots, I’m convinced that things aren’t really as bad as some people today might think, in terms of the pre-Vatican II vs. post-Vatican II liturgical-music landscapes.

No. They’re actually worse.

Why? Because the narrative is not really as simple as saying “we really had our liturgical-music act together before the Council, and after the Council everything collapsed.”

Rather, the more historically accurate narrative sounds like: “we really had only taken the first few baby-steps toward getting our liturgical-music act together in the decades before the Council, and then after the Council everything collapsed.”

It might be fairer to say that after the Council everything certainly changed, if not collapsed. Or at least that one specific change caused one particular collapse. I’m referring to the seismic shift in liturgical music that arose from the largely unrestrained embrace of the “vernacular” in the liturgy.

Chant’s Second Chance
A little context is in order before addressing the “vernacular” issue more directly.

A century ago, Pope St. Pius X took on the reform of liturgical music in a big way. Late nineteenth-century liturgical music had largely pushed Gregorian chant aside, and the patrimony of the Roman Rite’s most distinctive musical form was in danger of fading away. His 1903 motu proprio on sacred music “Tra Le Sollecitudini” sought to reclaim chant and minimize the damage that had been done by the “theatrical” or “concert” music that had made its way into liturgy via composers of secular classical music who also wrote beautiful performance works with religious content—Masses, oratorios, and the like—that were never appropriate for liturgy but had infiltrated it nonetheless.

The long-term project was to rediscover and reclaim the authentic root of chant, which had become covered in the overgrowth of centuries of adaptation and neglect. Thankfully, this pursuit was undertaken wholeheartedly by several key groups, and real progress was being made in allowing the Roman Rite to, once again, rely on its distinctive musical form in twentieth-century liturgy.

However, this all-important step was really only tenuously connected to another all-important question related to liturgical music: how might the recovery of chant impact the existing state of congregational singing at Mass?

Some Assembly Required
To my surprise, I’ve only recently come to learn that the Roman Rite has had a bit of an on-again/off-again relationship with the whole notion of liturgical singing done by anyone other than the clergy (remember, pre-Vatican II “clergy” included those in minor orders) or established choirs of the day. The people in the pews were not at all central to the notion of “liturgical” music, any more than they were at all central to providing the liturgical responses at Low Mass or High Mass (“Sung” or “Solemn”).

Yet the twentieth-century Magisterium did come down in favor of giving formation to the faithful such that they could at least minimally learn and participate in the chant that was being rediscovered. Granted, congregational singing of vernacular hymns was happening, but this was seen as distinct from the ceremonial-liturgical music that existed exclusively in Latin, not the vernacular.

Indeed, the real irony was that it was quite typically only in Masses that were not sung by the priest—that is, the completely unsung, recited Low Mass—that the more congregation-friendly vernacular hymns were permitted for use, as long as the unsung, recited Latin liturgical texts were delivered intact by server, choir, or even congregation. High Mass—necessarily sung by the priest and other “sacred ministers” (deacon, subdeacon) employing Gregorian chant, required chanted responses and prohibited any singing in the vernacular.

Precisely because everyone else in the liturgy besides the assembly—minor clergy, servers, choirs—had been trained to provide not only the sung chant but also all the appropriate Latin spoken responses, the people in the pews remained largely unexposed to the kind of education in chant envisioned in the first decades of the twentieth century.

Not only that, but it’s worth wondering—how many priests of that time were themselves well-trained to sing the Mass—that is, celebrate High Mass with all priestly parts necessitating expertise in Gregorian chant? I’m sure some could, and I hope many did, but I can’t help but imagine that recited Low Masses were much more prevalent in the average parishes, meaning that congregations were really focused not on the distinctive music of the Roman Rite, but really on hymns in the vernacular, if they did any singing at Mass at all. The patrimony of “real” liturgical music—that is, chant and polyphony in Latin—still rested largely in the hands and voices of clergy, choirs, and servers.

Mass Movement—From “Hearing” to “Praying”
Fast-forward to the era immediately preceding the Second Vatican Council, with the “Liturgical Movement” of that time focusing on getting people to move past the realm of “hearing” Mass amid favored private devotions prayed during it toward “praying the Mass” by at least following along with personal missals in the vernacular that could help a Catholic understand the spoken Latin. However, the reform of the liturgy took a turn headlong in the direction of accessibility—despite the Council’s insistence, in its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, that “The use of Latin is to be preserved in the Latin rites” (36), and that Gregorian Chant “should be given pride of place in liturgical services” (116).

If any single thing could essentially derail the century-long project of reclaiming the Roman Rite’s chant and finally getting it into the pews, the unrestrained plunge into the vernacular could, and did, in my view. It’s pretty simple. If priest and assembly are no longer bound by a requirement to learn and use Latin in liturgy, and if liberation from Latin takes the shape of a tsunami throughout the Church, from priest to pewsitter, access to the patrimony of Latin-text music—both chant and polyphony—becomes utterly short-circuited.

Furthermore, that huge, whooshing, sucking sound we all heard by the mid-1960s was the immense vacuum created by the absence of any music in the vernacular that could really fill the void created by severing the connection to both the Church’s universal language and its universal music. It was also, in my view, the death rattle for the ambitious decades-long effort to restore and reconnect not only clergy and choirs but congregations to Gregorian chant.

Now, I’m sure there were exceptions found in many places—people in the pew who really did “get” the liturgy and its music in Latin. Perhaps some parishes sought to preserve the precious steps taken before the Council to give chant real pride of place even in the congregation’s singing. Even so, history seems clear—the swift and monumental movement from Latin to vernacular (in the US, to English) set the stage for a pretty immediate need for vernacular liturgical music—and a vernacular chant was just not waiting in the wings during this time. Not only that, but the existing vernacular Catholic hymns were never intended to do the work of Latin liturgical music, and were largely themed toward devotions rather than Mass.

“Attention, All Personnel….!!”
Thus, the Church in the US was treated to the musical “M*A*S*H” unit that was first to arrive on the scene, offering not “meatball surgery” but offering “meatball liturgy.” And it wasn’t very life-saving—at all. As the Mass hemorrhaged its Latin, the wound, scarcely cleaned, received the Bandaid of the banal texts and melodies that at least initially came largely from the pop-folk era previously inaugurated by the 1957-1958 Kingston Trio smash hit “Tom Dooley.” By the mid-1960s, the exuberant and carefree folk revival had given way to protest music and politics, and that volatile mix of elements gave us that visceral novelty of “now” liturgical music (so called) in the vernacular—guitars and even banjos mercilessly subjecting the faithful to everything from “Sounds of Silence” to “Let It Be” to Catholic “youth” music like “Wake Up, My People,” “Till All My People Are One,” “Allelu,” “To Be Alive,” and “Joy Is Like the Rain.”

Now, fifty years later, the discontinuity does indeed seem staggering. It leaves liturgical music in a sort of limbo. The legitimacy of the pre-conciliar effort to restore chant must be reconnected with the legitimacy of the post-conciliar openness to organically growing new liturgical music from that root.

How much different would things have been if there had been real continuity? Well, I’m pretty sure a young believer like me, destined to be a liturgical musician for more than 30 years, would have benefitted greatly from hearing way more Latin, more chant, more Latin polyphony—anything that would have made it clear to me that these are truly the hallmarks of our Roman-Rite tradition. In my view, it’s not merely a missed opportunity for the Mass itself, but it’s a missed opportunity for me as a Catholic.

Mass is not supposed to make me musically comfortable—it’s supposed to make me more holy.

Some may say that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but I’m here to tell you: singing “If I Had a Hammer,” “Get Together,” and “Day by Day” at Mass never, not once, made me feel stronger—or holier. Let’s reclaim our rightful patrimony and try to rediscover—yet again—the liturgical music roots of the Roman Rite.

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Well-said Mr. Russell!  “He who sings; prays twice – especially Latin Chant”!   Ok, well maybe St. Augustine (this saying might be attributed to St. Gregory) didn’t mention the Latin Chant part…   but, then again, he wouldn’t have had to!   All I know is – that the music at most Novus Ordo masses makes my teeth hurt!

-Allan Gillis

Item episcopus seu duo testes!

…or in the English Vulgate: “A bishop with two balls!”

Catholic World News

Greek Orthodox bishop challenges Turkey’s president to convert

May 05, 2017

Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus has sent an open letter to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, telling the Muslim leader that he must convert to Christianity or face damnation.

In his message the Greek prelate describes Muhammed as a “false prophet” and dismisses the Qu’ran. He urges Erdogan to “renounce all errors, heresies, and innovations of Islam.”

Imagine for a second, our illustrious Cardinal Se’an having the croagies to say something as bold and faithful as this?!?!     FAHGET ABOUT IT!!!

By Allan Gillis

Sickening

What an insult to faithful Catholics!    We’re thankful for LifeSite News!

Nine Catholic colleges to honor opponents of Catholic teaching at commencement ceremonies

May 8, 2017 (CardinalNewmanSociety) — This spring’s commencement honorees at nine Catholic colleges include pro-abortion politicians, a dissenting priest, and advocates for same-sex marriage, according to The Cardinal Newman Society’s annual review of commencement speakers and honorary degree recipients at more than 200 Catholic colleges in the United States.

“It’s important to note that these colleges are going in the opposite direction of Catholic education generally, as Catholic identity continues to improve nationwide,” said Patrick Reilly, president of The Cardinal Newman Society. “Still, these colleges seem intent on perpetuating the public scandals that we have seen on Catholic campuses for many years. It’s an affront to faithful Catholics when a Catholic college honors politicians like Maria Vullo and Xavier Becerra, who just this year took strident actions to defend and promote abortion.”

In 2004, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released a document requiring Catholic institutions to withhold honors and platforms from public opponents of Church teaching. “Catholics in Political Life” stipulates:

The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions. [emphasis in original]

By holding up those who publicly oppose Catholic teaching as role models for students, administrators at these Catholic colleges violate the mission of Catholic education.

The Cardinal Newman Society has identified concerns about commencement honorees, including commencement speakers and honorary degree recipients, at the following Catholic colleges:

Boston College

Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, a Catholic who dissents on same-sex marriage, will speak at the commencement ceremony at Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Mass., on May 22. College President Father William Leahy, S.J., will present Casey an honorary degree.

When Sen. Casey was asked to give a lecture at Alvernia College in Reading, Penn., in 2013, the Diocese of Allentown opposed the invitation, noting that the public supporter of same-sex marriage was “increasingly in disagreement with the Church on issues involving Church teaching.”

Also, although he has repeatedly proclaimed himself to be pro-life, Sen. Casey visited a Planned Parenthood in March and has voted against defunding the abortion provider.

College of Mount Saint Vincent

Maria Vullo, superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services, will receive an honorary doctorate and give the commencement address at the College of Mount Saint Vincent in Riverdale, N.Y., on May 20.

Vullo has worked to force insurance companies to provide free coverage for contraceptives and “medically necessary” abortions. “New York will not tolerate any impediments or impairments of women’s rights and access to reproductive health care,” Vullo declared.

Vullo’s legal work has included fighting parental notification for minors seeking abortions.

DePaul University

DePaul University College of Law in Chicago, Ill., will honor attorney Paulette Brown as its commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient on May 14.

One of Brown’s signature achievements while president of the American Bar Association was a rule tightening prohibitions against attorney “discrimination” on the basis of “gender identity” and “sexual orientation,” which poses a serious threat to the religious freedom of Christian attorneys. Brown advocated including “gender expression” as an additional protected class.

Loyola University Chicago

Loyola University Chicago will honor Mary Frances Berry, former chairwoman of the Commission on Civil Rights and professor of American Social Thought and History at the University of Pennsylvania, as speaker at the May 9 commencement exercises for the Graduate School and Institute of Pastoral Studies. Berry has publicly advocated (see also here and here) the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Regis University and University of Notre Dame

Father Greg Boyle, S.J., founder and executive director of Homeboy Industries which focuses on gang member intervention and rehabilitation, will deliver the commencement address at Regis University’s ceremonies in Denver on May 7. He will also be honored on May 21 by the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., with the Laetare Medal, the university’s highest honor for an exemplary Catholic. (The medal was given to pro-abortion Vice President Joe Biden last year.)

The Sycamore Trust, an organization committed to enhancing Notre Dame’s Catholic identity, reports that while Fr. Boyle has done “admirable work in Los Angeles with men and women who have been in prison and with gangs, but he has also repudiated the Church’s teaching on gay marriage as contrary to God’s will and has ridiculed the Church’s bar to ordination of women and its withholding of Communion from Catholics married outside the Church.”

University of San Francisco

Xavier Becerra, California’s pro-abortion attorney general, will deliver the School of Law commencement address at the University of San Francisco on May 20.

During his tenure as U.S. Congressman for the 30th District of California, Becerra earned a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood and NARAL for his votes against a ban on partial-birth abortion, supporting funding for abortions overseas, against a ban on human cloning, and in favor of embryonic stem cell research.

Becerra also recently brought felony charges against the pro-life activists behind the Planned Parenthood undercover videos.

Villanova University

Michael Bloomberg, three-term mayor of New York City, will speak at Villanova University’s commencement ceremonies on May 19 in Villanova, Penn., and will receive an honorary degree.

Bloomberg is strongly pro-abortion and has been critical of pro-life Democrats, saying, “Reproductive choice is a fundamental human right, and we can never take it for granted,” and adding, “On this issue, you’re either with us or against us.”

Xavier University of Louisiana

Xavier University of Louisiana will honor a public advocate of abortion, U.S. Congressman Cedric Richmond from Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District, as its commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient in New Orleans, La., on May 20.

Congressman Richmond supports legal abortion: “Every woman has been guaranteed the right to dictate her own reproductive health by the Supreme Court and no one should have the ability to make that decision for her.”

Reprinted with permission from Cardinal Newman Society.

What happened in the 1960s?

By Augustinus

The West fell in the 1960s. This is both good and bad. To the extent that the Church is the West and the West is the Church the fall of the 1960s has meant that the church has been in crisis since then. Westerners, as a consequence, have been lost spiritually since then. On the other hand the Church never was only Europe and the West. Europe and the West kept the Church alive during the first 1500 years of the faith and then helped to spread the faith throughout the world. In the beginning the faith was strong in the near east-even outside of the Roman Empire. But Islam virtually, but not entirely, wiped out the eastern Church. After the schism between the orthodox and Roman rites Christianity flowered in the West and then spread globally with the rise of the West. that rise was due mainly to science and technology. The West developed science and technology and the rest of the world did not. In any case, between 1500 and 1800 westerners spread the faith to the new world and parts of Asia and Africa. thus, the church was no longer identified only with Europe. Islam was in decline, the Asian religions like Buddhism and Hinduism were stagnant like the cultures they inhabited and everywhere Europe and Christianity were in the ascendant. But then the 20th century dawned and with it the great European-centered World wars that lasted for some 50 years and tore Europe apart. The great bloodletting, and the resultant annihilation in the space of a minute of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the domination now of Russia and the eastern European countries by totalitarian and atheistic communism and finally the horrors of the holocaust led the best Europeans to stop and think about what went wrong!

Part of that great reflection on what went wrong was Vatican II which was convened after the period of the World wars. The children of the parents who fought in the world wars defined themselves in opposition to everything that they believed created the world wars. You cannot go through a conflagration that violently slaughtered some 50 million people without some period of penance and conversion. The 1960s was a period of violent repudiation of what went before and that was its healthy element. But it threw the baby out with the bathwater. it failed to do its homework on what exactly went wrong.

The 1960s was an attempt to identify what went wrong but it was a failed attempt. Vatican II did not attempt to identify what went wrong but it divined the need of the faithful to attempt to open up to a world in need and pain and disorientation. That was the positive element in Vatican II. It was a pastoral council seeking to engage the world now prostrated by the world wars.

But who was trying to understand what went wrong? Some religious philosophers and theologians tried. The Jewish philosophers tended toward the view that God had absented himself from humanity. The protestant theologians did the same. Orthodox theologians fell silent under the heel of the Soviets and Roman Catholic theologians through up a wild range of theories–none of them at all convincing as most of them settled on the evil is a mystery meme.

Secular philosophers and scholars also tried to figure out what went wrong and each of them identified one piece of the elephant…imperial competition for markets; growth of science and technology, population and demographic trends, ethnic tensions and so forth.

The fact that the world wars began and centered in Europe suggests that the rise of science and technology had something to do with it. My own feeling is that science and technology has made huge population increases possible. the world went from several hundred million in 1800 to 6 billion just two centuries later. These huge rises in population numbers place wild demands on fallible, scared, opportunistic political actors and governments who then make stupid decisions and pull the world into irrational wars.

Science is the great disruptor and the Church still refuses to come to terms with it.