Friday, October 05, 2007

Dear Liturgy and Romance Columnist

Dear Liturgy and Romance Columnist,

While I was walking on Drake's Beach in Marin County, CA, with a very attractive devout Catholic of the opposite sex in July, the subject of sacred music naturally (:-)) came up in the conversation. Fresh from the June 2007 Church Music Assocation colloquium, I ventured to articulate enthusiastically some of the ideas that I had been reading and hearing, which I had found very convincing.

For example, I told my friend that Gregorian chant is unique among all forms of music that could be used in the liturgy because it has only been used for worship. Because of its origins within the liturgy of the Church as it developed over the early centuries, chant brings into the ritual no profane associations with external things.

I told him that some say poetically that chant is sung prayer. Chant is not something added to the liturgy like hymns are. Chants (such as the Introit, the Kyrie, the Gloria, the Sanctus, and Communion chants) are an intrinsic part of the liturgy.

I added that in spite of the claims of those who I believe hijacked Vatican II, the council’s first document--on the sacred liturgy--said that Gregorian chant should have pride of place. It also said that polyphony should be allowed, that the organ was the canonical musical instrument because it raises one's mind to higher things.

As a matter of fact, I told him, Latin was not excluded by 2nd Vatican council. The documents actually said that the vernacular should be "allowed" in cases where it would aid understanding, as in the proclamation of the Gospel. It is a far cry from allowing the use of the vernacular to the notion that Latin was to be forbidden from then on.

My friend, who not coincidentally sings the new music happily (including songs by the St. Louis Jesuits, who many traditional-music-lovers abhor) and plays guitar and bass at his church, red-facedly started figuratively pawing in the sand and roaring that those who put these arguments forth just don't like modern music.

His arguments were all ad hominem. According to him, we all use these arguments only because we prefer the old way.

I am disappointed in this fellow, who is otherwise a good conversationalist, well-educated, well-adjusted, devout, and pleasant (not to mention cute). I believe he is doing what he accuses us of doing, arguing from his own preferences.

He, for his part, did not offer any arguments to back up his dislike of the official sacred music of the Church. His only argument was that what I was trying to tell him was hooey.

We somehow fell into the same argument this week again during a phone call, and I reproached him for not giving the points I raised any consideration. The fact that he will not address this topic on an intellectual level lowers him a great deal in my estimation.

What do you do with someone like that? He was born in 1956, and so probably grew up mostly hearing only the new music.
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