Look what I bought!
Just in case you don’t know (and if you’re not a musician or liturgist, you might not), this lays out the guidelines for celebrating Mass.
This is the sort of liturgy thing I need to have on hand, period, especially if I’m never able to get a grad school liturgy degree. (It’s a consideration for the future, just not now because I can’t afford it.) So when I stopped by My Local Catholic Bookstore™ and found this, I was a happy camper. Of course, this also means I’ll know if a priest is making a liturgy suggestion that is Definitely Against the Rules and Probably a Bad Idea Regardless™. And in that regard, a little knowledge might be a dangerous thing.
At my main parish, our hymnals are designed to be used in three-year cycles. The new cycle starts soon, so as soon as it was in, I picked up the new version and started perusing.
My main parish uses United in Christ, the bilingual three-year hymnal. So there is plenty in Spanish and English and at least a few changes. I quickly perused every page to see what I liked; fortunately, there is plenty. For example:
• New “old” hymns include “Adoro Te Devote” and “O God, Beyond All Praising,” which is one of my favorites.
• Other additions include an incredibly strong Advent litany and Tom Booth and Jenny Pixler’s “Sacred Silence.”
• There are now solid bilingual translations of “Christ, Be Our Light” and “Praise to You, O Christ Our Savior.”
But I do see some shortcomings:
• So many English translations of Spanish songs simply stink. I wish OCP would fix them; “Pescador de Hombres” is one of the notoriously awful versions. I know translating to fit a meter isn’t easy, but turning “Alabare” (literally “I will praise”) into “O Come and Sing” was just weird.
• The basic Latin Mass setting chants are there, but not the English versions.
Still, my parish has used this hymnal for a while, and it serves our needs fairly well. I’m cheered by the efforts OCP has put in to keep improving this, and I’m looking forward to another solid three years with the books.
The question is asked by a CCWatershed writer: Why are the readings not sung at Mass? One of his suggestions, weirdly, is “psychological immaturity” on the part of the priest.
Even Jesus realizes this is a silly thing to say.
But that silliness aside, let’s address the question. I got my first experience of this at the CMAA colloquium this summer, and I think I can answer this pretty easily. I would never suggest singing readings (except in the EF, of course).
In every experience I had with the sung readings this summer (EF or OF), I noticed two things.
A: I couldn’t hear the singer.
B: If I could hear the singer (some were miked, some not), I couldn’t understand the singer.
Now, obviously, this was a very small sample size in a very big church (though I wasn’t sitting too far back). Others’ experience may vary, but my experience was uniformly negative.
There’s also a personnel issue. At my main parish, we barely have enough singers, period. Trying to get them to sing the readings would be a non-starter, and for the priest, singing a long gospel is a non-starter.
I’m sure some people appreciate sung readings, and that’s fine for them. But let’s not mistake preferences as guaranteed to be improvements from whatever you don’t like. And let’s certainly not confuse a preference for “psychological immaturity.”
Hello, parishoner! Good to see you. Let me shake your hand.
“¿Como esta, Tim?”
Excelente. ¿Y usted?
“No excelente. Tengo gripe.”
Gee, thanks for shaking my hand while you have the flu, sir.
I was at a meeting for all the music ministers at one of my parishes. It was at this meeting that we would listen to the newly selected Mass setting and get ourselves acclimated to it. So the music director started to play it.
And the musicians all started to look at each other. The new Mass setting was not very good. It was a revised version of an old setting that was good, but this revised version was not good at all. Being the good musicians and complainers we are, we immediately complained. It was hard to sing the Gloria verses. The accompaniment stunk (although, to be fair, it wasn’t great the first time either). Who picked this, anyway?
Embed from Getty Images
Let me make this case apart from the musical aspects. This isn’t my favorite hymn (I avoid it at my main parish but get stuck with it sometimes at others), and I like many things by Marty Haugen. There are more than a few people who simply loathe the hymn and want it gone for that reason. Fair enough. I want to make a different case that the answer is yes.
In and of itself, the hymn is something the Church should strive for and has nothing in particular that’s actually against Church teaching. But it certainly doesn’t contain the whole of Christian teaching.
But since it gives a truth that out of context can be twisted, it gives dissenting groups an opening. “Oh, yeah! So we’re actually welcoming, suckers!” they may say. And so they are doing their best to use the song as a semi-political shot at the Church, we are better off without it. Por ejemplo, this congratulations-you’re-excommunicated women’s “ordination” ceremony:
Now, church music can be hijacked for other reasons. You will never hear this Bach toccata and fugue at Mass , because the connotations give us Halloween thoughts, not sacred ones:
Back to our subject. It’s a popular hymn amid many non-dissenting Catholics as well. Perhaps, we could reclaim it from the dissenters. It’d be tough. Marty Haugen isn’t Catholic, and neither is the hymn particularly so. And really, is it worth the time and effort to do a reclamation project on it? Nah. Better to let it go and focus on other hymns.
As I play at multiple parishes and get exposed to more than a few different Mass settings, the last three years since the introduction of the new Mass translation have given me a lot to work with. Here’s a quick review of the settings I’ve come across since they went into effect:
Embed from Getty Images
Posted in Church Music, Curmudgeon Hour, Reviews
Tagged bob hurd, dan schutte, david haas, ed bolduc, heritage mass, icel, ken canedo, land of rest, marty haugen, mass of christ the savior, mass of creation, mass of glory, mass of joy and peace, mass of light, mass of redemption, mass of st. ann, misa del pueblo inmigrante, owen alstott, Richard proulx, steven janco, tony alonso