Thursday, May 22, 2014

What Abp. Listecki SHOULD Be Prioritizing

The Archbishop of Milwaukee has been busy attempting to resolve the bankruptcy case precipitated by two of his predecessors (Weakland and Cousins).  He's also been busy attempting to silence the growing dissent over his apparatchik's ramming Common Core into the Archdiocesan schools.

Prioritizing the former is appropriate but secondary.  Prioritizing the latter is silly at best, and threatens the unity of the Church, especially with the incendiary and borderline-slanderous flapjaw of his designated mouthpiece on the matter.

What should the Archbishop be prioritizing?  Exactly what the Second Vatican Council (in several documents) described as "the source and summit" of Catholic life:  the Eucharistic Sacrifice.  Specifically, the Archbishop should be focusing on the clear and continuous teachings and regulations concerning that 'source and summit', particularly the music therein. 

(Perhaps it's just co-incidence, but the mouthpiece above has openly bragged at least twice that he's not a liturgical "fusspot."  Apparently he's only a "fusspot" when it comes to demanding that the Faithful shut up and obey about Common Core.  Other "fusspotting"--say, about the 'source and summit'--well, that's just silly.  A waste of breath, time, and his intellectual superiority.)


Let's begin with a takeoff on the thinking of Marshall McLuhan, who happens to be Catholic.  Recall his famous dictum that "the medium is the message" here utilized in an essay in Patheos:

“This possibility of undoing the message by the mode in which you yodel gains special importance with respect to the Divine Liturgy. Catholics have, for the past 60 years or so, tended towards presenting the Divine Liturgy in a mode of similarity. We want to “get people to come,” and so we strive to make our liturgies similar to other experiences, to provide that condition by which someone may enter comfortably into its presence, as I am comfortable to be in the presence of someone I already know, comfortable to engage a conversation with people who have similar interests, similar views.

“The music of the Mass is made similar to the music of our culture. The demeanor of the Mass is made similar to the “Christian services” of our culture. The clothing we wear to Mass is made similar to our everyday clothing. The posture, structure, language, architecture, the position of priest to people — all this, and nearly anything that can be presented in a mode of similarity is thus presented. And, in a sense, it works. People come. But what does the mode of similarity do to the way in which people encounter the Mass? What does the mode do to the message?

Indeed.  One does not go to the tavern to hear sacred music.  What on earth possesses diocesan priests who want their flocks in the church to hear variations on "Evita" and/or third-rate Elton John tunesmithing from Haugen,, dressed up with 'hymn-language'?

The good news for Abp. Listecki is this:  another US Bishop has written a clear and concise document on the matter.  H.E. Listecki could re-publish it and tell his priests that he expects them to....ahhh....shut up and obey.  (Of course, he might then be called a "fusspot", as is--apparently--the Bishop of Phoenix.)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1157) makes a direct reference to St. Augustine’s experience when it teaches that the music and song of the liturgy “participate in the purpose of the liturgical words and actions: the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful.” 

The Mass itself is a song; it is meant to be sung. Recall that the Gospels only tell us of one time when Jesus sings: when he institutes the Holy Eucharist (Cf. Mt 26:30; Mk 14:26). We should not be surprised, then, that Christ sings when he institutes the sacramentum caritatis (the Sacrament of love), and that for the vast majority of the past 2,000 years, the various parts of the Mass have been sung by priests and lay faithful. In the 1960s, the Second Vatican Council strongly encouraged a rediscovery of the ancient concept of singing the Mass: “[The musical tradition of the universal Church] forms a necessary or integral part of solemn liturgy” (Sacrosanctum Concilium,112). The Mass is most itself when it is sung.

This recent rediscovery of “singing the Mass” did not begin with the Second Vatican Council. Following a movement that stretches back at least to Pope Saint Pius X in 1903, Pope Pius XII wrote in 1955, “The dignity and lofty purpose of sacred music consists in the fact that its lovely melodies and splendor beautify and embellish the voices of the priest who offers Mass and of the Christian people who praise the Sovereign God” (Musicae Sacrae Disciplina, #31).

Sacred music is distinct from the broader category of what we may call “religious” music, that which aids and supports Christian faith but is not primarily a part of the sacred liturgy. “Religious” music includes various devotional music, such as much popular hymnody, “praise and worship” music, as well as a host of other musical forms.

Sacred music is, in the narrowest sense, that music created to support, elevate, and better express the words and actions of the sacred liturgy. The Council praises it as music “closely connected…with the liturgical action” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 112), for example, the Order of Mass (dialogues between ministers and people, the unchanging framework of the Mass), the Ordinary of the Mass (Kyrie, Gloria, The Creed, Sanctus and Agnus Dei), and the Proper of the Mass (the priest’s sung prayers, the Responsorial Psalm, Alleluia and Verses, the antiphons and psalms prescribed for the processions [specifically, the Introit, Offertory, and Communion processions]).

Sacred music is distinct from the broader category of what we may call “religious” music, that which aids and supports Christian faith but is not primarily a part of the sacred liturgy. “Religious” music includes various devotional music such as much popular hymnody, “praise and worship” music, as well as a host of other musical forms.

The Council’s enthusiastic rediscovery and promotion of sacred music was not meant to discourage “religious” music but rather to encourage it — assuming the clear distinction and proper relationship between them.

Priorities, Your Excellency.


Anonymous said...

I agree! In fact, I believe one of the primary aims of the Archdiocesan Synod should be the beautification of the Sacred Liturgy through the revival of Gregorian Chant and Sacred Polyphony in the Milwaukee Archdiocese. The Liturgy must become a priority for Archbishop Listecki.

Grim said...

Very good.