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Liturgical Music:
The Ideal, The Innovation, The Future



Vatican II voted on Sacrosanctum concilium December 4, 1963. On January 3, 1964, Pope Paul VI appointed Father Annibale Bugnini as Secretary of the Consilium for the Implementation of the Constitution on the Liturgy (the Consilium, for short) within the Congregation of Sacred Rites (CSR).

  • Consilium (CSR) issued 1st Instruction, Inter œcumenici, on September 26, 1964
  • CSR issued 2nd Instruction, Tres abhinc annos, on May 4, 1967.
  • Consilium issued Instruction, Comme le prevoit (on translating texts) on January 25, 1969
  • Pope Paul VI divided CSR, on May 8, 1969 — Consilium became the curial department, Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW)
  • CDW issued 3rd Instruction, Liturgicæ instaurationes, on September 3, 1970
  • CDW issued Jubilate Deo [small book of Gregorian chant) in June 1974
  • Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship (CSDW) formed from merger of CDW and Congregation for the Discipline of the Sacraments, July 11, 1975
  • Bl. John Paul II changed name to Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDWDS) on June 28, 1988
  • CDWDS issued 4th Instruction, Inculturation and the Roman Liturgy, on March 29, 1994.
  • CDWDS issued 5th Instruction, Liturgiam authenticam, on March 20, 2001

The Major Innovators:

Archbishop Annibale Bugnini (1912-1982) On May 24, 1948, Pope Pius XII appointed him Secretary to the Commission for Liturgical Reforms, which revised the Easter Vigil in 1951 and the remainder of Holy Week in 1955. On June 6, 1960, Fr. Bugnini was appointed the Secretary of the Pontifical Preparatory Commission on the Liturgy, which wrote the draft for what would become the first Vatican II document, Sacrosanctum concilium. He was a peritus (expert) at the Council, and after, was appointed as the powerful Secretary of the Consilium for the Implementation of the Constitution on the Liturgy.

Giacomo Cardinal Lercaro (1891-1976) Considered papabile in 1958 conclave, which elected John XXIII as a "transitional" pontiff. Passed over as too liberal in the 1963 conclave, which elected Paul VI. He was regarded as one of the main architects of the Council's liturgical reforms. From 1964 to 1968, President of the Consilium.

Some liturgical InNOVAtions:

The good and … not so good.

  1. The people took an attentive role in liturgy ("active" is an often misunderstood word). We sang more, we listened more, we vocally prayed more. The needs of the local community found expression in the Prayer of the Faithful. We understood liturgy better, and where catechesis was good, we saw liturgy as part of a long continuum reaching back through the Council of Trent and Pius V to the Last Supper itself, and also reaching forward to a future of further adaptation and refinement.
  2. All manner of instruments were used in worship. The pipe organ was often held in no "high esteem," and often totally ignored in the loft, in favor of other less noble instruments. Pianos, guitars (acoustic and electric), drum sets, banjos, tambourines, accordions, and even rock bands found their place at Mass.
  3. Propers (Introit, Offertory, Communion) were completely replaced by hymns, and later by freely-composed songs. Liturgical texts written by the Church, some of venerable antiquity, were jettisoned for texts that anybody could write. Sung propers were traded out in favor of the local songwriter; publishing houses jumped on the chance to make huge profits, and liturgical music was the domain of free-enterprise market economy.
  4. The "Four-hymn Sandwich" developed, from an over-generalization of Musicam sacram (1967):

    There is no reason why some of the Proper or Ordinary should not be sung in said Masses. Moreover, some other song can also, on occasions, be sung at the beginning, at the Offertory, at the Communion and at the end of Mass [MS-67 36]. (emphasis added)

    "On occasions" seems to have been interpreted as "every Mass." We fell into a deep rut — from the mid-1960s, even to this very day in many parishes, music directors were emboldened to pick four hymns for Mass. That was often the extent of their expertise and their leadership.

  5. Secular musical styles made their way into churches. Gregorian chant, which had been considered sacred in the choir loft (and paradoxically is still considered "sacred" in secular society), came to be seen as "dusty" and "old-fashioned." Novelty and innovation were primary criteria for choosing music for liturgy. Music interchangeable with the radio, with Broadway, with movie soundtracks, even with rock concerts found a home in Catholic liturgical repertoires.
  6. The novelty of a "responsorial" Gloria appeared.
  7. Latin vanished. The beauties of the vernacular for readings, intercessions and prayers exploded in an ill-informed distaste for any Latin. Like chant, the noble liturgical language of the Latin Rite was seen as "out-dated," a "thing of the past," "something we worked hard to get rid of."
  8. The Bible was broken open to all Catholics, with hugely expanded selections from Scripture — three readings and a psalm at every Mass! Nothing but good can come from hearing more of the Word of God.
  9. Logic, objectivity, common sense, humility, faithfulness, orthodoxy — these were often in short supply. The openness, freedom, rebellion, revolution, emotionality, and social upheaval of the times (particularly 1965-1985) all had a profound effect on liturgy. The Vatican Council could have printed in bold, four-inch letters on the cover of the Constitution Sacrosanctum concilium: USE LATIN! It would have made no difference to a generation unimpressed with hierarchical power or with obedience, one empowered with recreating liturgy anew at all costs.
  10. The demarcation between clergy and laity was severely blurred. Priests became congressmen and lay women offered homilies at Mass. The laity not only embraced their legitimate new roles in the liturgy (readers and EMHCs), but pushed the limits. "It's our right to be a Eucharistic minister" — to the point where Father sat down during the distribution of Communion.
  11. Mass texts were changed without authority. The notion of "inclusive" language entered the sanctuary and every instance of a "male" reference to God was expunged. We witnessed:
    • "Glory to God in the highest, and peace to God's people on earth."
    • " … he was born of the Virgin Mary and became human."
    • " … to the praise and glory of God's name, for our good and the good of all God's Church."
    • "In the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer, and of the Sanctifier. Amen."
  12. The liturgical calendar was streamlined. Simplicity and logic reigned. Some bemoaned the loss of a pre-Lenten season and the Pentecost octave. Others saw these same "losses" as gains for the precision of a 40-day Lent and a 50-day Eastertide. I favor this latter thinking.
  13. Liturgical dance happened, perhaps as a means of "artistic expression" or an expansion of the idea of inculturation.
  14. Priests wore tie-dye vestments, odd-colored vestments or no vestments. Being "one with the people" became a priority. Altar rails disappeared, the assembly walked up around the altar for the Eucharistic Prayer, confession was down-played (by both participants) — "feel good" liturgy was strongly entrenched. And music followed the lead.
  15. Liturgy became a "grass-roots" phenomenon. No longer was direction taken from Rome. Local church meant more than universal Church. Liturgy was truly "the work of the people" and the people in every parish made up what pleased them. The proverbial wheel was invented thousand of times every Sunday.
  16. The Liturgy of the Hours [Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer] was opened up to and encouraged for the laity. Much fruit has come from groups coming together to pray the official prayer of the Church. And … this is where hymns are absolutely and unquestionably appropriate!
  17. Rubrics disintegrated, and like Roman traffic laws, became mere "suggestions." And the stability of many parish liturgies was akin to rush hour on the Corso.
  18. Volume measured active participation, which led to a phenomenon which can be best defined as hyper-active participation. If congregations weren't belting out the "Gathering Song," then they certainly had no clue what "participation" meant. To maximize "practice time," the assembly was invited to sing everything. Lotsa people singin' lotsa songs meant good liturgy.
  19. A forty-five-year habit concretized liturgy in many people's minds. We must sing only in English, we must sing (at least) four hymns at every Mass, the choir may not infringe on our music, the priest must face us at all times, organ preludes must be quiet, music must be hip and relevant and emotional and warm-fuzzy. But aren't these just "caricatures" of good liturgy?
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