Friday, April 27, 2007

Praise and Worship Music at Mass

Over on the Catholic Answers Forum, I started an interesting thread on why guitar-based praise and worship music, such as "Shout to the Lord" or "Days of Elijah," shouldn't be used at Mass. I tried to get posters to go beyond a simple "I don't like it."

I learned a lot, and I was made aware of certain Vatican documents that seem to have been either ignored or watered down. But there do appear to be loopholes. Anyway, the consensus appears to be that such music may well be appropriate for prayer meetings, but not for the sacrifice of the Mass.

Here's a relevant quote from Tra le Sollecitudini:

VI. Organ and instruments
15. Although the music proper to the Church is purely vocal music, music with the accompaniment of the organ is also permitted. In some special cases, within due limits and with proper safeguards, other instruments may be allowed, but never without the special permission of the Ordinary, according to prescriptions of the Caeremoniale Episcoporum.

16. As the singing should always have the principal place, the organ or other instruments should merely sustain and never oppress it.

17. It is not permitted to have the chant preceded by long preludes or to interrupt it with intermezzo pieces.

18. The sound of the organ as an accompaniment to the chant in preludes, interludes, and the like must be not only governed by the special nature of the instrument, but must participate in all the qualities proper to sacred music as above enumerated.

19. The employment of the piano is forbidden in church, as is also that of noisy or frivolous instruments such as drums, cymbals, bells and the like.

20. It is strictly forbidden to have bands play in church, and only in special cases with the consent of the Ordinary will it be permissible to admit wind instruments, limited in number, judiciously used, and proportioned to the size of the placeprovided the composition and accompaniment be written in grave and suitable style, and conform in all respects to that proper to the organ.

21. In processions outside the church the Ordinary may give permission for a band, provided no profane pieces be executed. It would be desirable in such cases that the band confine itself to accompanying some spiritual canticle sung in Latin or in the vernacular by the singers and the pious associations which take part in the procession.
I think this goes to show how much I conflated the community gatherings we had in Lamb of God with the Mass, and how the former had become more important to me than the latter. At the community gatherings, it was all praise and worship, all the time.

Now I realize many of you reading this are from other denominations/religions, but I wonder whether your services have had similar arguments over what music to play or not.


dragonflies said...

I'm glad I'm not Catholic, cause for me, praise and worship go hand in hand with singing. Our church has an awesome praise band (including *gasp* and electric guitar) that sometimes really rocks the house! But every single one of the people in that band are there to praise our Lord, not to be praised themselves.

To me, if you are going to attract people to your church, you need to hook them with something they will enjoy, and then keep them by feeding them the Word. We church shopped for a while before we found our current church, and this was the first place we felt welcomed and comfortable. That we belonged.

To me, that is the MOST important part. That we welcome people and make them feel like it is a place they belong.

dgeph said...

As someone who changed churches for liturgical music reasons, (the pastor at the previous church didn't like it), I finally feel obliged to respond to a Cyggie post. Particularly in response to his selection from Tra le Sollecitudini. I hadn't seen that document, so I read it That was written in 1903, a lot has changed since then. (Vatican II was a good thing, in my opinion.) As an example, we can now sing in languages other than Latin, and it is acceptable to have women in the choir, and as cantors. As for "other instruments", I've sung at Ordinations where they've had a full brass band.

I've done some more research, and found the following quote by Pope Benedict XVI: click here. In it, he mentions the Second Vatican Council, which modernized the liturgy. "This means that music and song are more than an embellishment of worship; they are themselves part of the liturgical action. Solemn sacred music, with choir, organ, orchestra and the singing of the people, is not an addition of sorts that frames the liturgy and makes it more pleasing, but an important means of active participation in worship. " Reference is also made to Psalm 150, which "speaks of trumpets and flutes, of harps and zithers, cymbals and drums; all these musical instruments are called to contribute to the praise of the triune God."

And in Sacrosanctum Concilium itself, the Second Vatican Council Constitution, the following quote: "But other instruments [other than organ] also may be admitted for use in divine worship, with the knowledge and consent of the competent territorial authority... "

Therefore, there is nothing "wrong" with using guitars. It's not ignoring documents, it's not watering anything down, it's not a loophole. It's a modernization.

My feelings, if they haven't been made clear by now, is that liturgical music is an intergal part of the Liturgy. While it is indeed meant to enhance the celebration and not overpower it, I see nothing wrong with modernizing it. If using guitar-based-praise gets people in the pews, is that not a good thing? I like liturgical music that's interesting. If all that was sung was Gregorian Chant, even I'd stop attending Mass. I much prefer a church at which a variety of music is performed.

As an aside, I haven't been to a Polka Mass since I moved to Maryland 19 years ago. I used to play trumpet at our annual Polka Mass. Are accordians appropriate? (Not withstanding the Far Side cartoon: Welcome to Heaven, here's your harp. / Welcome to Hell, here's your accordian.)

Cygnus said...

For dgeph:

You might want to check out this post, which shows that the current main guiding document regarding liturgical music apparently never went through proper channels:

And so, when parish musicians, diocesan music committees, parish music committees and others concerned with liturgical music have questions regarding guidelines and instruction on liturgical music, they will most likely consult the “committee document” MCW rather than Musica Sacra, a concilliar document which carries primary juridicial force regarding the liturgy as a result of it’s unanimous approval by the College of Cardinals assembled for the Second Vatican Council, as well as the signature of the Pontiff, Paul VI. Why revise Music in Catholic Worship? It’s simple: To bring it into conformity with Musica Sacra and establish a uniform view of liturgical music within the Catholic Church that has an actual foundation in tradition and teaching coming from legitimate sources. That’s why.

Cygnus said...

DF: It took me a long time to think up a response. I'm glad you feel called to be where you are and worshiping the way you do.

My approach and that of the Catholic Church is different: what draws us together is the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ as expressed in the Eucharist. And that deserves reverence . . . not emotionalism.

This is certainly not something we're going to be able to agree on because it goes to the heart of what we believe. But I appreciate your candor, devotion, and (unlike OT) your respect for my faith.

My prayers continue for you and DH both.