Sunday, January 29, 2012

Wendi Wonders Whether You Care (about sacred music)

Wendi cares about sacred music, and she’s not afraid to let you know it. She has some cogent thoughts on the subject and some ideas about how to help your parish move toward greater reverence in the Mass by simply following the guidelines for music which the Church Herself has laid out for us.

Wendi wrote about her daughter’s wedding here, and noted that the music for the nuptial Mass – Gregorian chant, sacred polyphony, organ – made quite a positive impression on those who attended.

The other day, she wrote more about sacred music, and why she cares about it. Read the whole thing here.

I’ll give you a few tidbits. Why does she care? Because:

I just happen to think it's THAT important.  Let me try and explain why.

…what is Sacred music in the Mass designed for?  What is its proper function?

There are many theories.

It's supposed to foster a sense of community.
It's supposed to help the people participate.
It's supposed to make people feel good.
It's supposed to reinforce catechesis.
It's unnecessary.
It's supposed to help people focus on Jesus.

I've heard all of those.

I think the last comes the closest, but it's not quite right.

The purpose of Sacred Music in the Mass is to draw the attention of the faithful and allow them to more fully express their joy in the eternal mysteries being celebrated.

The purpose of Sacred Music is to draw attention to the fact that this space and this time are set apart from the every day.  The Mass is a banquet.  A Wedding Feast.  Special.  Important.

Wendi has lots more to say, and you really need to visit her blog and read her posts. But she makes another point about sacred music that I want to emphasize here: it’s not about the individual - the soloist or the cantor. It’s about the music itself, and the function of the music in the Mass:

A choir on the other hand...many voices singing the congregational responses with no one person on the "mike" encourages the participation of the faithful.

Then too, a well-trained, properly rehearsed choir can give as a gift to the faithful, some of those beautiful pieces of music that are part of the treasury of the church. 

One reason that the young people are turning towards chant and polyphony is the 
other-worldly beauty of it. We have a Schola cantorum at our church made up almost entirely of college students.  It's about the chant and the Latin.

That music sounds special.  Important.  Set Apart.  The young recognize and respond to that.

The charismatic Masses on the other hand, with their "contemporary music", my own teens pronounced boring.  My daughter's fiance who self-identifies as a charismatic...attended my oldest daughter's Nuptial Mass and immediately asked if they could have that music for their wedding.  He, like many others, said it was the most beautiful thing he had ever heard.

…I find it interesting that these young people immediately and instinctively seem to grasp that which continues to elude many others: That music in the Mass isn't just an afterthought, tacked on, inserted into the Mass. It's an essential, functional part of what we are offering as a community.  It's important.

It sets the Mass apart from our every-day activities (at least it should).

Sacred Music should be beautiful.  It should be special.  It should offer the best of what we have to offer.

And then Wendi hits us right between the eyes:

So why do I care?

I have better questions.

Why don't you care enough to demand chant and polyphony in your parish?

Why are you settling for the pap and pablum they give you? 

How important is the Mass to you?  

Why don't you care whether it's special or not?

Excellent questions. Think about it.

Wendi is not one to leave us wondering what to do next. Here’s her follow-up:

…It occurs to me that some of you want change but don't know how or where to begin. In the next few posts I'll offer some suggestions on how to make your voice heard in a productive way.

Suggestion number One.

Stop simply sitting in the pew and complaining to your spouse or friends.

…If you are genuinely concerned about what your children are hearing during Sunday Mass or what you yourself have to listen to, make a determination you are going to do something about the music.

Suggestion number Two.

Educate yourself. Read the documents concerning music in the Liturgy, so when you do start asking for change, you have the proper information to back up your requests…

Here are some of her suggestions:

Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy) from Vatican II

Musicam Sacram : Instruction on Music in the Liturgy

General Instruction of the Roman Missal

And, she adds:

The one thing all these documents have in common, is the recognition that Latin and chant have pride of place in the Mass. 

So start there.  Get the facts to back up your requests.  If you have friends that feel as you do, send them the links to the documents.

This is definitely a situation in which numbers make a difference.  One person is a crank.  Ten people are a minority.  Fifty people are a movement.

This fits in with the request Fr. Z made of us a few days ago. He provided this paragraph from an address of the Holy Father:

As we know, in vast areas of the world the Faith is in danger of being snuffed out like a flame that no longer has any sustenance. We are at a profound crisis of faith, at a loss of a religious sense that constitutes the greatest challenge for the Church of today. The renewal of the faith must therefore be the priority in the undertaking of the whole Church in our times. I hope that the Year of Faith can contribute, with the cordial collaboration of all the members of the People of God, to bring God back anew to this world and to open to men an access to the faith, to a reliance on the God who loved us to the end (cf John 13,1), in Christ Jesus, crucified and risen.

Fr. Z added:

I will add my view that nothing of which His Holiness spoke is going to be accomplished without a renewal of our liturgical worship.

Our identity as Catholics cannot be separated from our worship.

… Lay people: band together and start requesting celebrations Holy Mass also in the Extraordinary Form. Get organized. Form a schola and start singing chant so you will be ready when the time comes. Offer to take care of all the material details. Offer to provide vestments, books, money so the priest can go get training. Start thinking about forming a group of servers, perhaps even father and son teams.

Our Catholic identity is in great need of revival right now. Sacred music, liturgical renewal, the extraordinary form of the Mass: these are essential elements of our Catholic identity.
I believe we need a top-down effort on this as well (bishops need to get on board with the EF Mass!), but if we can generate a sort of grass-roots, bottom-up effort as well, we can all converge on the renewal of our faith.

Don’t just sit there. Do something.

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