Liturgical Myth Busters
I love myth-busting.
Here, via the blog The Chant Café, April 13, 2011, by way of a seasoned Catholic music director, Jeffrey Tucker outlined 25 myths of Roman Rite liturgy that he called, "What We Think We Know That Is Wrong."
— Gary Penkala
- It is possible to fully understand the Mass.
- 1a. Having Mass entirely in the vernacular facilitates this complete comprehension.
- 1b. The more Latin we use, the less we can comprehend the Mass, unless we know Latin.
- Mass is really about the words.
- We must determine the popular musical taste of young people and incorporate these styles into the Mass, or young people will eventually leave the church.
- 3a. Young people overwhelmingly prefer contemporary popular music in church.
- 3b. Likewise, young children are only capable of grasping music written specifically for them.
- 3c. Family Masses, primarily addressed to children, facilitate catechesis.
Such Masses do not, however, demonstrate to adults that religion is primarily for children.
- Hymns and songs are integral to the Mass.
Mass with music, but with no hymns or songs, is unthinkable.
- The main way to determine a hymn or song's suitability for Mass is to examine the text.
- 5a. Therefore, since all versions of the Mass Ordinary have the same approved text in English, any setting is inherently suitable for Mass.
- Changing texts to prayers, readings and hymns can be helpful, or is at least harmless; people won't even notice, and would say something if they did.
- Laypeople live essentially stable lives, and look to the Church to be surprising and innovative, especially in the liturgy.
- Most women prefer gender-neutral language when referring to God.
The younger the woman, the more this is true.
References to God as "he" or "Father" are scandalous or unintelligible to the non-religious.
- A small group of vocal parishioners likely represents the views of the majority.
- People can sing tunes and especially rhythms rooted in popular music easily and naturally.
Popular music is much easier to sing than classical music.
- Members of ethnic minorities are grateful to us when we incorporate into Mass musical styles we associate with them.
- 11a. In cultures other than our own, especially in Latin America, the distinction between sacred and secular music is non-existent.
- Having a single Mass in multiple vernacular languages is a way to please everyone, even those who speak only one of the languages.
This leads to unity.
- 12a. Any use of liturgical Latin, on the other hand, is extremely divisive.
- Church music shares many important characteristics with Broadway music from the 1980s and early 90s.
- All chant sounds the same to untrained ears.
- 14a. All chant is in Latin.
- 14b. All chant is equally difficult and esoteric.
- 14c. Exception: The funeral Sanctus and Agnus Dei are the only pieces of chant that untrained laypeople are capable of singing.
- 14d. Chant is most appropriate for penitential times (like Lent) and least suitable for joyful times (like Easter).
- The assembled parishioners, along with the priest, perform the primary actions of the Mass, and are also the Mass's primary audience.
This principle drives every liturgical or musical decision.
- God is indifferent to the particulars of our worship.
- People in the pews will never, never, never sing in Latin and they resent you teaching them how.
- The most natural and appropriate opening is a rousing hymn or song for the procession.
- The best metric to gauge participation in the Mass is the assembly's singing.
The louder the singing, the greater the participation.
- 19a. People who don't sing at Mass lack enthusiasm or devotion.
- 19b. No responsibility can be laid on the accompanist or music director if a congregation is not singing.
- The church provides us the Mass in the form of a rubrical skeleton, onto which we map our choices of songs, service music, and locally-designed elements.
This is how we do liturgy.
- 20a. The two main sources for doing liturgy are personal preferences — what most of us like — and the lectionary readings for the day.
- People will sing more at weddings and funerals if you use Mass of Creation.
- All authoritarianism in Catholic liturgy originates in Rome.
- The Second Vatican Council fundamentally changed the Church, and especially the liturgy.
- The liturgical changes following the Second Vatican Council have led to an increase in understanding of the Mass, and therefore a general rise in Catholic practice.
- 24a. To question these changes is to question the Council.
And my absolute favorite:
- Unaccompanied, unamplified polyphonic music sung by unseen singers in a choir loft is more a performance than worship.
- 25a. Conversely, a band with an electric keyboard, two guitars, bass guitar, flute, and three singers on microphones near the altar is more worship than a performance.