Saturday, July 07, 2007

A Church Musician's


In a typical American parish, the selection of music betrays--and reinforces--an irreverent approach to the Mass.

By Michael Olbash

Apr 2003 (CWR) - Most CWR readers are probably familiar with the orthodox Catholic weekly newspaper, the Wanderer . I do not know how that title was chosen, but as a conservative Catholic musician with a considerable amount of training in organ, voice, and liturgy, I certainly feel like "the wanderer" myself. I wander from parish to parish, trying to find a community of people with whom I can share my gifts without being forced to perform the usual "sacro-pop" that has spread throughout the American Church like an unfettered parasite over the past thirty years.

Since my graduation from high school just ten short years ago, I have held "Director of Music" positions in eight separate parishes, with my terms of employment ranging in duration from six months to two years. I can't seem to hold down a job. Sooner or later--usually sooner--I come to blows with the pastor or a group of influential parishioners over the selection of liturgical music.


Here is the basic pattern of what happens when I am hired at a parish. My first order of business is to clean up that which has preceded me. I come in armed with the instruction on sacred art and furnishings from the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (124):

  • remove from the house of God... those works that are repugnant to faith and morals and to Christian devotion and that offend true religious sense either by their grotesqueness or by the deficiency, mediocrity, or sham in their artistic quality.

When they refer specifically to music, the Vatican II documents, and subsequent Church instructions, are much more delicate in their terminology referring to sacred musical arts. But their fundamental intent is still the same. A good deal of the music performed in American churches today is simply not fit for the house of God, and ought to be replaced.

Even just playing one sappy song per Mass is like giving sugar to a toddler; it's only a matter of time before the average individual in the pew will be demanding more and more of the stuff. Unfortunately, the people in positions of power at the parish level do not seem to understand that music ministry is not meant to entertain. It is meant to express our unity, our reverence, our humility, our awestruck wonder at the holy Sacrifice which Christ celebrates for us on the altar. It is meant to give voice to our beliefs, to lift up the teachings of the faith--not just to give everyone a warm feeling. Sappy music begets sappy theology, sappy dogma, and sappy moral teaching. Today's Catholics, facing the difficult challenges that come with living a moral life and defending the faith, need more.

MORE . . .


Tiber Jumper said...

i have to be honest, I am still so enthralled with the whole Mass, and the idea of receiving Jesus in flesh and blood has helped me to not be mortally offended by the not so great music and lyrics during the Mass.And I am even a musician and former worship team member, and an old ancient folk mass guitarist as a middle schooler in the early 70's!

Joyful Catholics said...

Yeah, I'm kind of mellow about that stuff, too, and don't get too bent out of shape, but I appreciate his thoughts being much younger than I and to crave what I at one time thought was so stodgy... amen bro.