Anthony Esolen at Mere Comments has a good forensic examination of what is wrong with the Glory and Praise hymnal titled Cross? What Cross?
I’ve recently been strapping on the swamp boots to wade through something called Glory and Praise, perhaps the most commonly used Roman Catholic hymnal in the United States and Canada. Oh, it is sloppy and noisome work, logging the bathos, stupidity, banality, heresy, and textual vandalism. I’ve concluded, though, that there is one factor that touches every problem, something that helps explain these apparently disparate acts of mischief:
— the neutering of old masculine language about mankind and even God
— the heedless fouling up of the old poetry, to update a "thou" and a "thee"
— the seizing of every chance to talk about dancing (not to be found in the New Testament, I suspect, unless it’s Salome) and about the motherhood of God"
— in general, the louche emphasis upon feelings, not repentance, but soft and syrupy feelings
— the blithe arrogation of God’s words to ourselves, speaking in the first person
— the arrogation of God’s grace and majesty to ourselves: "We are the Bread, we are the Body"
— the celebration of our own wonderfulness, and the decrying of sin — that is, other people’s sins
— the abandonment of traditional liturgical forms, traditional poetry and song — all relegated to the status of the "old fashioned," for trotting out, like Grandmama’s silver, at certain feasts, and that’s it
— the passing along of counterfeit "folk" music, actually performance music, like "Do You Remember the Kind of September," only not nearly as good
— the mincing baby-talk in the verses, along with a bogus primitivism, a la the Indians in Hollywood: "You are child of the universe."
It’s narcissism, all of it. It’s the pretty boy at the side of the pool, gazing upon his image in the water, ignoring his parents, the woman in love with him, the reality of the world around him. He wants to remain a pretty boy forever — he wants a disembodied "union" with no ties to the past, no duties to his fellows, and no law to obey. It’s music that encourages a choir full of American Idols, shimmying and shaking and calling attention to themselves, while envying one another (I’ll bet some of our bloggers have stories about infighting among the twenty self-appointed soloists of a "Christian" choir).
What’s missing from the hymnal? Oh, music, poetry — and one thing above all: the Cross. The Cross sure does seem a fine cure for narcissism. In all our arguments about ordination and (in the Catholic church) lay "ministry," nobody ever says, "I want the right to be ordained a priest because I demand to be crucified!" Or, "I want to serve as a lector because I want to be crucified!" Hardly — these things and many more are considered clerical plums that everybody ought to be able to pop in the mouth, if they choose. We are Church, don’t you know, not to mention Bread and Body and God Almighty. If there is a single new "hymn" that is written in the shadow of the Cross, encouraging the taking up of what will leave your back stooped and your shoulders cut with splinters, I haven’t seen it. Meanwhile, a part of my own crucifixion seems to be the necessity of listening to it all, and watching the performers. Silence would be infinitely better.
Gerald at the Cafeteria is Closed has a "Gather Us In" parody.
Then there is always my Missal Defense Flash game to help you take out your frustration.
Narcissism is also the demon infecting contemporary American religious life…oh the whining and shrill demands…
Fr. Philip, OP
I hear all this, and I agree with a great deal of it. Still I wonder, is this a problem in South America or China? My parish priest said that the music is to come from “the people of the parish”. He has no respect for a neighboring parish who is known to pay a lot of money for a choir imported from another city. So, I really need answers to those questions too.
Smitty, if I understand your question, yes, this is a problem in South America too. I live in South America (and was born here).
The only exception is that I haven’t seen the God-as-a-mother problem.
Smitty, a lot of times there might be highly qualified people in the parish who don’t come forward, because they don’t see themselves as fitting into the more folk style. There could be people who studied music in college, or poets or people who know the Bible well, who could help make choices. You don’t know unless you ask.
My sense is that choir/ liturgy directors never do enough recruiting.
Also, there has never been a better time for making changes, because there are a lot of online resources. For example, I always like to mention William Byrd’s Mass for 3 voices, because all you need are 3 good, dedicated singers and your parish can have one of the best polyphonic works ever in its repertoire. There are 7 different downloads available on ChoralWiki here: http://www.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/Mass_for_Three_Voices_(William_Byrd)#Complete_score_.286_movements.29
Also there are chant downloads, and an annual conference, from the Church Music Association of America: http://www.musicasacra.com/
Good music suggestions, every week, are available here: http://www.canticanova.com
Some people are having a lot of success by introducing simple chants to children. They don’t react negatively to it like it is pre-Vatican II or anything. So a once-a-month children’s choir can begin to turn things around.
Don’t give up! I believe the Lord will support every effort made to give him glory. Even if it’s little by little.
Our morning mass started with the terrible song that begins “We come to tell our story”..
Yeah, thats why I come to Mass alright. Waht was that old thing about the Holy Sacrifice? My pastor told us that Mass is the gathering of the assembly to give thanks and share a meal.
Myself, I am hoping for the extraordinary form of the Mass and will drive a fair distance to find WORSHIP.
I’m guessing that Esolen is looking at an older edition. OCP has cleaned this hymnal up considerably for the 2nd edition.
-And the Father Will Dance–out.
-At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing–in.
The original, o my goodness, I am not making this up, had a song that went:
I am a man without envy/ No roof and no walls to defend me/ In hopes that someday you’ll befriend me/ And take all my troubles away.
But the pendulum is swinging–even at OCP. Even with G & P.
I forgot why you people complain as if the modern hymns are torture until our music director went on vacation and I was forced to recall the those hymns, played and sung at the “proper” tempo, indeed constitute a unique torture. (Our director, who recognizes our limitations, speeds up the music, sings in a register to which we can conform, and forgoes all frills and elongated operatic inventions. In other words, we’re spoiled!)
Last week we resigned ourselves and offered it all up. This week was one too many. I spent one-third of the Mass fighting nausea, one-third fighting the urge to laugh, and one-third fighting with a son who had surrendered to his reactions.
Yup, this Sunday included a classic, under the breath, mom/child moment:
“Do NOT go to Communion unless you’re sorry.”
“How can I be sorry if I’m NOT?”
“Ask Jesus to MAKE you sorry!”
Ooh boy. I actually escorted a defiant child out of church (that was a first) so that he would have time to feel sorrow!
And it all began with a couple of loooonnnngggggg, extra aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalllllllllllllleeeeelllllll
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaas, delivered in an operatic shriek.
I am heartily sorry, both for losing my MIND and for forgetting that this sort of music is the cause of much suffering!
Folk music isn’t. The 60’s and 70’s mush found a home in churches because no one else wanted it, least of all the “folk”. The REAL folk music, the music that shattered class and race bounderies, was rock n’ roll. Fortunately most fans of the “Here I am Lord” are too wimpy for the implications of that.
You are so right! We use Gather, which is equally hideous. At the cathedral, when we are not singing some Marty Haugen monstrosity, we are singing half in Spanish, even though there are not many Spanish-only speakers in the parish and there is a parish offering a Spanish Mass just two miles away.
When I asked the nun in charge of the music why we sing in Spanish, she told me it was because of the “universality of the Church.”
Huh. I guess we’ll be cycling some Polish, Italian, and Swahili in one of these days.