Monday 21 September 2009

A picture: what do you say?

High Mass in Germany after the war:

Image courtesy: CathCon and St Louis Catholic

Some poignant observations of a "Reform" Carried Out

Some commentators to Jeffrey Tucker's post below give a clear insight into the "reform" as carried out in some parishes.  Here are selected comments below; surely, we saw much of this in Australia too...

I was around during the liturgical upheavel of the 1970's, I remember vividly the first NOvus Ordo Mass on Palm Sunday 1970, and the disapointment of the people, as we had been told that the adjustments to the Old Rite made in the years between 1965 and 1970 would be the final changes, that THIS was the Liturgy that the Council Fathers wanted. THen came the Novus Ordo with the outlawing of Latin, the disapperacne of Chant, the enforced break-up of choirs, vestments, statues, communion rails, altars and of whole sanctuaries. Communion by laypeople, standing, even on the hand, followed. Professional liturgists and singers tried to force us to learn a new liturgy and new songs, but to no avail: catholics remained from then on forever silent. Kumbaya and HOsanna-hey-sanna just could not replace Et cum spiritu tuoa and Tantum Ergo in our hearts and upon our lips. I was 16 when the demise began - at least, when it hit my parish - and have seen thousands upon thousands leave the Church as a result of it. Troughout the world the same story can be told. It was the professionals against the parish preists and the lay faithful then too. Don't beleive the official version of the post-conciliar era. THe victors always write the official history to suit themselves.

Albertus, your account is pretty much as I remember things but the Novus Ordo actually was introduced on the First Sunday of Advent 1969 and not on Palm Sunday.

Many of the things you describe took place before the Novus Ordo came on the scene. From the first changes on the First Sunday of Lent 1965 until the Novus Ordo came there was a period of great disruptiom (to which you allude). The EF, as used in most churches on the Sunday before the Novus Ordo came in was, in fact, barely recognisable.

One major change that came on that same Advent Sunday was the replacement of the provisional english translation by the less accurate and more banal ICEL translation. One week we all said "And with your spirit" while the next week we said, "And also with you."
David M. O'Rourke

Thank you for this excellent article. The myth that you describe well is holding back many priests and parishes from improvements to liturgical music that would greatly help the life of prayer of the people.
Another factor I have found is that the " ching, ching-a-ching" Church music of the seventies is an embarrassment to the young people it is mistakenly intended to attract.
Fr Tim Finigan

I am an old geezerette and I remember when the Mass was changed, the paper missals on the pew, the awful empty feeling in my heart. I was planning to become Catholic but walked away after that. I finally joined the Church about 15 years later and tried to live with the bland liturgy and music.

Now I am thrilled to be able to attend a TLM once in a while, and the parish and choir I belong to now sings some traditional Latin hymns and some chant.

I will be attending the pilgrimage and Gregorian chant workshop in DC. I have no doubt that it will be one of the highlights of my life.

Indeed, the Novus Ordo was supposed to be introduced on the first Sunday of Advent 1969, but the Vatican allowed Ordinaries to delay this introduction until as late as Palm Sunday 1970, which was the case in my diocese. Before that date, Our parish ahd introduced only the strictly necesary minimum of mandated adjustments to the Old Rite. I remember Palm Sunday explicitly, because, for the first time something else was sung instead of Pueri Hebraeorum during the Palm procession: it was Hey sanna ho sanna (or something like that) our of Jesus Christ Super Star. I remember the horror and shock as the professional liturgists tried to practise this song with the faithful a half hour before the start of Mass. I remember also, that, perhaps in that same year or a year later, our beloved old augustianian priest, who for years regularly helped to distributed Holy Communion at the Sunday Masses, dressed in soutane, surplice and stola, went to the Tabernacle, but was pushed away by a woman in street clothes: the first lay person whom i ever saw at the High Altar, at the Tabernacle. She helped the pastor distribute Holy Communion whilst the old augustinian priest, humiliated, went back to the sacristy. We never saw him again. THe pastor later took up the strange habit of walking around the church during the homily with a microphone in hand, and of inviting random people to stand or sit around the Altar during the Canon. THe choir was disbanded, as only the faithful were supposed to sing: which meant, only the pair of professional liturgists with guitars and Jesus Christ superstar repertoire. THis was the most traumatic year of my life.

TO escape the Novus Ordo i entered the next year a traditional seminary where the Old Rite, with altar, communion rail, and chant, was still intact. I have schewed the New Rite ever since.

As for the eastern rites, most of them have a liturgical language too! old Church Slavonic, Byzantine Greek, Gheez, Coptic, Syriac. etcetera are not immediately understandable by the Russian, Greek, Ethipian, Egyptian and Arab faithful.

Excellent post. Thank you. This reminds me of something.

I'll never forget the time I attended (on behalf of a Catholic organization I worked for) a Catholic conference on preaching back around 2002. The organizers had arranged for a professional Catholic musician to give a talk and to provide entertainment before one of the evening banquet meals. She held (as far as I know, still does) an influential position at one of the big Catholic music publishers.

A colleague and I were astonished when, as pre-dinner entertainment, this woman (probably in her late 50's or so) sat at a piano and proceeded to play for the attendees brief snippets of older, more traditional English hymns (some of which are among my personal favorites). But why did she play them--to render a respectful nod to them? Absolutely not. She was outright mocking them. I wish I were kidding. She actually played bars from (e.g. "Faith of Our Fathers" I think was among them) wonderful old hymns and literally laughed at them. She was doing what she thought was comedy! The mere sound of the old hymns was, for her, a source of immediate and spontaneous laughter. She would say, "Remember this one?" play few bars, and giggle knowingly. The organizers were mostly clerics in their 60' or older. The audience was expected to laugh right along with her, as they took this stroll down memory lane from their childhoods. The mood was one of, "Gee, aren't we glad we can look back at those overly-naive, unenlightened days when we actually took such music seriously? We were kids--we didn't know better. Now, we have music of the people. Now, we can remember and laugh at those stodgy bygone days."

My heart absolutely sank as I realized this highly-placed member of the Catholic music publishing business was actually publicly mocking beloved old hymns that are actually singable and theologically robust. And my personal experience is that these hymns are making a come back, and that generally speaking, people sing them with more gusto and relish than the folk and pop-influenced drivel coming out of the 70's and 80's that her publishing business crams into their publications. It was an experience I won't forget. I felt like I was among a group of people who were completely clueless about the authentic, popular attractiveness of more traditional musical forms. It was a group hermetically sealed-off from the opinions and attitudes of anyone who doesn't think like them. [And in light of my comments, I want to acknowledge that although I enjoy the older hymns, I completely agree that chant and chant-inspired music is the best musical form for the liturgy.]

Switching gears, I would like to comment that I seriously question whether the take-over of the Catholic music publishing business in the late 60's and 70's by the folk/guitar/tambourine crowd was truly a reflection of the preferences of a majority of Catholics at the time. [And I would like to say I don't have anything against good folk music; but I don't want it at Mass. Besides, that stuff is not good folk music anyway.]

I suspect that only a minority of Catholics truly preferred this contemporary folksy style of hymn music. But, those caught up in the juvenile, hippie spirit of the times gained control of the professional liturgical music industry and proceeded to force their musical tastes upon everyone in the name of "the people."
Scott Johnston

Scott, you might be right that she was playing to an audience that shared her views, but lots of these performers do this in order to instruct people of the proper attitude to have toward the past. I've seen this with theology lectures when a person will mock confession behind a screen or the rosary or whatever. It's a way of broadcasting the "correct" disdain that one is supposed to have in order to be part of the in group.
jeffrey tucker

A modern-day myth: Liturgical Music and the Elites vs the People

Jeffrey Tucker of the New Liturgical Movement has another one of his excellent insight pieces that are well worth a read: about the myth and the reality of Liturgical Music - the "people vs elites" mentality and explaining how we have got to where most of us are in parish life.  Some extracts:

The most exciting, vibrant, and young movement in Catholic Church music today involves the revival of Gregorian chant, and also the old and new music that flows from its stylistic sensibility and texts. Workshops around the country are growing larger. Sales of chant books are booming, to the point that distributors can hardly keep them in stock. Membership in chant-support organizations is growing. Discover this energy is as easy as typing a few search terms.

I'll only mention one program taking place in late September at the National Shrine in Washington, D.C...Already one week before, more than 160 people have signed up to attend. This includes mostly young people, but also many middle-aged people seeking to upgrade their skills.

It's all just thrilling, and so much so that there's hardly any time to reflect on the meaning of this shift. However, let us do so now. There are things about this revival and energy that utterly smash the prevailing interpretive paradigm of the modern history of Catholic Church music.

The story goes like this. In preconciliar times, Catholics knelt passively at Mass and didn't sing a note. The celebrant was a disembodied actor who faced the altar and did all the work, speaking in a language that no one knew. To the extent there was music, it was sung by trained professionals who sang from strange books and stuck only to the masters for the rare High Mass. People were complacent and obedient but the entire machinery was stilted and stale and uninspired.

Sounds like the beginning of dystopian novel, doesn't it? Well, that's the conventional view, and I've read it again and again. Only last night I read this tale yet again in a new book on the topic (I'll refrain from mentioning the title pending a full review later.)

Ok, now comes the great tale of the revolution. The sixties were a time of rethinking and heightened consciousness. There were civil-rights struggles, men on the moon, fresh faces in the White House and the Vatican, and a new generation determined to bring life to this static world. They brought their guitars and folk music and the people's language to the cause of Catholic worship. Sure, the professionals didn't like it but to heck with them: the voice of the people rose up in song and wove the glorious ideals of the protest movement into the fabric of Catholic liturgical life...

So I can't really weigh the relationship between fact and fiction in the above scenario. I do know that it is probably impossible to generalize the experience of Catholics at Mass before or after the Council. Then as now, a heterogeneity in quality prevail: some music was probably dreadful and some was great. The scenario as sketched above, however, just seems too clean and neat to me.

But the real danger of accepting this tale at face value is that it makes one completely blind to the reality of the current moment. In fact, if one follows the mainstream music publications or liturgy publications from the old-line publishers out there, one slowly begins to discern the presence of an appalling blindness about today's realities. The Pilgrimage I mention above should be big news. But I can promise you that it will received no attention at all in any of the usual venues. This is not so censorship at work but denial: what is happening today doesn't fit into the easy categories that have become dogma: the professionals vs. the people, static vs. active, silence vs. participation, English vs. Latin.

Those who are now throwing themselves into learning and singing Gregorian chant are overwhelming non-professionals. They are volunteers who are starting scholas in their parishes. They meet and sing on their own time. They earnestly learn to read neumes, pronounce the Latin, and discover the essential musical structure of the Roman Rite in hopes of making a contribution. Most of them are either not paid or are paid very little. They aren't coming to these workshops and programs thanks to anyone's expense account. They are paying their own money for tuition, materials, and hotel. This are doing this because they love it and believe it in.

Who are the professionals and the academically-trained Catholic musicians today? They are heading the well-funded organizations and managing the large publishers. They constitute the establishment that knows hardly anything at all about Gregorian chant. In fact, their livelihoods are financially linked up with the promotion of pop styles and industrial-style delivery systems. Contrast with the unfunded and truly grass-roots efforts of the chant movement around the country.

And are they doing this because they want to make the liturgy more static? It's ridiculous. They are doing it because they would like to see the Roman Rite come back to life with artistic forms that are native to it. Can we state the terribly obvious here? Mass with four song written in 1970s and 1980s is dreadfully boring today. It is energy-draining experience to listen to dreck.

Surely there are very few people in the world who are inspired by the 1,323rd playing of fill-in-the-blank. Singing a Gloria or Sanctus from the ancient books, however, can be an incredibly thrilling and spiritually uplifting experience. Or how about a Gregorian hymn like Ave Maria following communion? Few experiences are as invigorating as that.

And are these people coming to these events in order to get people to shut up and be silent during Mass? So far as I can tell, the impulse is the exact opposite. It is enervating in the extreme to see the absurd scene of praise teams banging and strumming away while people sit in pews with long faces and periodically look at their watches. This goes on in parishes all over the country every week. Compare to the truly meaningful experience of a gathered people who have actually work time and work into learning a great piece of chant that they sing together every week.

Finally, it very well may be true that the Latin vs. English issue was a rallying point back in the 60s but today there are many editions of chant in English that are readily accessible and free for the download. They are best rendered in light actual knowledge of the Gregorian tradition. I don't see praise bands dipping into this repertoire. Nor is it necessary to learn to give a speech like Cicero in order to understand and sing the basic chants of the Mass, which the Church has repeatedly said should be known by every Catholic in the pew. I'm sorry but the campaign against Latin increasingly looks not only anti-intellectual but even anti-Catholic.

It would be nice to see some acknowledgment in old-line publications and venues of the truth of what is actually happening at the grass roots. But so long as the old intellectual paradigms remain, they can't see that the ground is shifting beneath their feet. It very well maybe true that today there is a tension between the people and the trained elites but the what each side is seeking is the reverse of the tale we've heard a thousand times.