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December 02, 2003


Michael Tinkler

Well, they're the kind of people who think that "today's youth" know who Bette Midler is. And that they're still relevant.

Mike Petrik

I agree with MT. I would add that most of these people cannot fairly be described as liberal Catholics (an easy temptation for us more conservative types). They are generally not very serious Catholics at all, but are just products of a broader "anything I like must be good" pop culture. Deep inside they *feel* a license to construct their very own liturgies, reflecting their very own tastes, preferences and priorities. After all in America individualism reigns supreme.

fr richard

Pardon my ignorance, but as a Ukr. Catholic priest I'm not familiar with this hymn or song, "The Rose".

Does anyone know where I could find it on the internet?

If so, thanks!

Rod Dreher

And yet -- and yet! -- the one diocesan parish in all of Dallas where a Catholic can worship in a Novus Ordo mass celebrated, and chanted, in Latin, the universal language of the Church, is targeted by the bishop. This is an outrage, but Catholics just sit back and take it, and take it, and take it, even as our heritage is ripped from us by our bishops and their minions.


Oh, Fr. Richard, spare yourself.

It's a song made famous by Bette Midler in the film of the same name, loosely based on the life of Janis Joplin..

Here are the lyrics


I think much of the problem with this watering-down of worship is ignorance, both by some clergy and most laity, of what the Mass is. There seems to be a need to find "meaning" (read "good feelings") in liturgies.
Not "The Rose" again!

John McG

Er, "the Rose" wasn't being used at Mass -- this was a dinner at a retreat.

Besides matters of taste, I would like to see someone provide a convincing argument of why it's use would be inappropriate in this context.


John McG, I'll try.

Christianity gets precious few opportunities to genuinely impress itself upon children in our fast-paced, jaded society. When those few opportunities present themselves, it is vital that the Church put forward its best face: that its perpetual mission is to preserve and teach the timeless truth of the Word made flesh. That means it ought to have a certain respect for timelessness.

There is a real danger that the wellspring of Christian culture will be confused with ephemeral boomer culture when para-liturgical events become occasions for Oldies 94.5 music and gimmicks whose purpose or theological symbolism is muddy (what, no Bic lighters were available?).

Popular culture should not be always verboten, but it should be kept separate from the liturgical context except in special situations with utterly compelling theological justification. Better for the Church to commission good works for its own use and have them seep into popular culture than the other way round.

The Church's cultural role is to offer up the best of its witness, whether in architecture or music or philosophy or art or the spoken and written word. It should not be confused with something that one can get anywhere else; the Church's job is to outlive contemporary culture, not ape it.

Dale Price

Well said, Craig.

Frank Elliott

What's next Madonna or Judy Garland?

Obviously, there are a quite a few gay priests in desperate need of career counseling being inflicted on the Catholic public.

Nostra culpa! Nostra culpa! Nostra maxima culpa!


Well said, Craig!

John McG:

I'm the author of the original note...just to clarify, it was not just dinner at the retreat...I'm not such a prig that I would object to popular music being played perhaps as background music during dinner, even on retreat. This was a prayer/paraliturgy invention during which a single loaf of bread was passed around to be shared, and we all drank grape juice...that was the "symbolic meal" aspect of it.

My objection is just as Craig articulates...the orchestrators of this retreat, although lovely people and well-intentioned, are entrenched in the thinking that the Catholic tradition cannot stand on its own...that somehow it needs to be "made relevant", gussied up, made more palatable, whatever you want to call it. My opinion is that by doing so, they are sending exactly the opposite message of what they want to convey: rather than giving the kids Christ in all His majesty and mystery, the Christ they can fall in love with, they are telling the kids that "we don't want to show you what Catholicism really looks like because we think we you won't like it." The kids are drowning in secular culture...on the rare occasion when we have them as a captive audience for the purpose of passing on our faith, it seems unthinkable to me that we shy away from the magnificent expressions of Christ's love that the Church has amassed in her 2000 year history....music, art, prayer, whatever...this is their heritage, their birthright. We do them a terrible disservice by serving up the thin gruel of Bette Midler ditties when we have a banquet feast of sacred music and prayer to offer them.


Peace, all.

First off, Bette Midler did not pen the tune. Second, it would be an example of what I would call "inspirational" music, as opposed to liturgyical music. The song touched people when it arrived to cultural consciousness in 1979, and I have no problem with that. As pop songs go, it's okay.

The point is that a church musician would not choose it for liturgy, not even a progressive one. I think this an example of people being out of their depth and struggling. The question for youth ministers, teachers, and DRE's: why don't you inculde the skills and experience of a real musician or liturgist on your retreats? The question for church musicians and liturgists: why wouldn't you consider a place on the team of a youth retreat as part of your apostolate? I've been fortunate to have been in many parishes where these questions were asked. Motto for the day: Never send a catechist to do an artist's job.


Clarification: I am a pragmatist. I have no particular idea of what constitutes correct Christian culture. But we have plenty of existing options that don't ape popular culture.

My attitude, as in Larry Wall's Perl philosophy, is "there's more than one way to do it". So I don't have a particular torch for Latin and plainsong, Gothic architecture, or icons and Old Slavonic either for that matter. These things are good, but they're not the be-all and end-all. I don't hold out for Anglican hymns or the King James Bible, although these are permanently engraved in my own psyche and I am loathe to give them up. But clearly each of these things has spoken to people for centuries now, and still do: they're proven technology.

Somewhere, there is probably a place where 1970s music contributes to the holiness of the (sadly deranged) parishioners. For me, that stuff is teeth-grindingly awful, but if it helps others grow in the faith who am I to complain? The point is, the church is not a museum for snobs or a robotic assembly line. If something helps, give it free rein and encourage it; if it doesn't help, have the good sense to chuck it without prejudice.

That said, the other blog entry about the Dallas priest kicked out over using Latin disgusts me; what is so onerous about acknowledging that different people are inspired to reverence by different things? Me, I'd like to have the Anglican Use near me, but for some reason that makes sense to bureaucrats it'll probably never happen. No, we must all act exactly alike to celebrate our diversity.


Sorry, John. I misinterpreted your original
statement of the kind of liturgy this was.

Donald R. McClarey

I am ashamed to admit it, but I rather like the Rose. However, I also like Anchors Aweigh. Neither should have any role in the liturgy.

Jimmy Mac

I hope that those of you who deplore "The Rose" don't quickly jump to the defense of such good old Catholic hymns as "Bring Flower of the Fairest", "Mother Dear Remember Me", etc. Those of us raised on those syrupy old things developed a high probability of becoming diabetics.

Keith R

To what extent are conversions from Fellowship Protestantism diluting more traditionally catholic practices?

All these hands held high during the Our Father...grape juice and bread passed around the fellowship...Christian Rock hymns...

Does the Catholic Church face an "imigration" crisis of a liturgical sort. Is thourough inculturation the response?


The problem I have is that by creating such non-liturgical worship services one is in effect telling the teens that we believe that at normal worship services have nothing to offer them. The really amazing thing is that anyone would be surprised that the teens do not return for normal services when the "special" confirmation extravaganzas are over.

Catechists who want to truly love and form teens in the faith will find ways to help them discover the extraordinariness of our God and his precence in the mysteries of the Mass. They would take a look at programs like Youth 2000 where adults have creatively developed a program to allow teens the time and space to experience the sacred presence of God in the sacraments. Mass would never be ordinary. It would always be an extraordinary encounter with God.



The protestant converts I have met are Catholic because they know how unsatisfying the grape juice and bread meals are. If one wants to look to the origins of these, I'd look to cradle Catholics who haven't been formed in their faith, are ignorant of the sacraments and the sacramental presence of God, and have little exposure to the cultural treasures of the Church. They have no idea how to pass on the faith because the faith was not passed on to them. They look towards their protestant neighbors and their teen programs in order to fashion a teen program "that works."

Franklin Jennings

Thank you, Therese.

If all I had ever seen of catholicism was the stuff peddled at the couple of parishes I had visited before this year, I'd never have converted. I can get all the same stuff at a Methodist church, and the conversion process is far less onerous (non-existent is less onerous, right?) Because I really only personally know converts in my parish, and because my parish is an indult Tridentine one, all the protestant converts I know would choke on bile if they experienced "The Rose" in any (para)liturgical setting. They also, to a man, would recoil (not really in horror, just reflex) if someone took their hand in during the "Our Father" or tried to chat with them in the Nave before Mass. On this last one, I learned a good way to handle chatty-cathies from Fr. Bob Levis. He said give them a warm loving smile while you place your index finger over your lips. He also warned that without the warm loving smile, someone is likely to get offended. Got to love those wise old priests.

I originally just wanted to chime in and thank you folks. I've had that song stuck in my head for nearly 24 hours now and I am about to go insane!!!


Catherine of Alexandria

On a lighter note, I recently went north from Florida to New York State to stand as sponsor for my teenaged niece at her Confirmation. The rehearsal was a few nights before the Mass. My niece, who attends Catholic High School, informed me that the parish's director of religious education would be managing the rehearsal. My sister, always quick with her wit, quipped to me: "Oh good. Now you can meet God Almighty."

I hope this solves the identity question posed above.


I think can see this as a continuation of the endless need of Catholic for highly emotive devotional gatherings, typically accompanied by cocaine-high sentimental music. This tradition long antedates Vatican II. It's the same impulse under a different guise.



If you want to get rid of "The Rose", try singing a few rounds of "Let There Be Peace on Earth". That should do it.

Or maybe you'll be lucky enough to hear that at your local church!

Lynn Gazis-Sax

I rather like the Rose as a song, don't really see the problem with holding hands during Our Father in folk Mass type settings, and can remember attending one retreat (Episcopalian) when I was a teenager in the 70s which incorporated secular 70s music in parts of the retreat, and it worked for me. But what I remember is, oh, someone who did inspirational slide shows which might be either to hymns like "Amazing Grace" or to inspirational sounding pop music, and using both kinds of songs during the parts of the retreat when we were just getting together singing. Actual liturgical use of the Rose in a prayer service does seem weird to me (even if it were still the 70s, and all the weirder given that it's not).


My parish is big on "Let there be peace on earth".....with the politically correct changes: instead of "brothers all are we," we have "we are family." AARG!
We also have a lot of chatting in the pews beore (and sometimes during) Mass. Sometimes I just give up and move away.

fr richard

When I was a (much) younger priest, 15 years ago, I was asked to serve Mass at a number of retreats sponsored by a local Catholic high school. Although I was only present for 8 to 10 hours during the weekend, it seemed there was a real lack of focus in the presentations.
The top priorities seemed to center around 1. Being a good person and helping others. 2. Feeling good about yourself.

Emotionalism ran high, which is to be expected, but it seemed to have no real purpose and it hinged on each individual's particular feelings regarding just about anything under the sun.

When I heard confessions at these events, over those years I began to realize how extraordinarily uncatechized these kids were. These penitents were serious about their sins, but most had only vague ideas about Christ, the Church, the Sacraments and prayer. It was genuinely surprising. I only hope my meager efforts made a bit of difference, but it helped me see that cultural hipness, social- connectedness and good feelings aren't nearly enough to fill these kids' plates.

Why did it take me so long to see it? "These kids love these retreats!"

True. But I began to understand, after hearing of their lives, that they needed much more to know the real Christ, Who loved, and loves them so much that He offers them a Way to truly live. And I deeply regret they weren't offered that reality in a clear and confident way.

I think one of the above posters gave one reason why this didn't happen: The real Gospel message might turn kids off.

Or so the adults think.

Pardon my presumpions.


Peace, all.

"Non-liturgical worship?" Not sure what is meant by this. Any ritualized communal worship is "liturgy" though it might not be "Liturgy." I would define non-liturgical worship as private wordless devotion: stream of consciousness, silence, or something like that. In which case, I would probably call it something positive: meditation or contemplation.

Don't really care much for the term "paraliturgy" either. If you can't stomach calling it "liturgy," just call it prayer. Might not be your cup of tea or mine, but if it worked with God on some level, it's a start.

You still need a good liturgist to do it right. Putting liturgically naive teachers in charge of prayer is like asking me to fix your car. Either way: very messy deal.

Lance Eccles

I haven't heard of this Rose thing before, but the other night I attended a Confirmation ceremony at which no one would have dreamt of singing such things.

Cardinal George Pell of Sydney conferred the sacrament, and it was set into a Tridentine sung High Mass -- the Votive Mass of the Holy Ghost.

Most of the 50 confirmandi (if that's the word) were teenagers, but there was no hint of cheap 'n nasty condescension -- everything in Latin, Gregorian chant from the schola and the packed congregation, polyphony from the choir gallery, incense, Knights of the Holy Sepulchre in attendance.

Not all confirmation ceremonies can be like this, but if there's a choice between the ceremonies of the Church and the ceremonies of Hollywood, there is no excuse for choosing the latter.


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Wow, I did a search on the internet for the definition of "paraliturgy" to get a clear understanding of what I heard in conversation earlier in the week, and tripped upon this blog. I began reading all about the use of "The Rose" at a retreat dinner for young people and what I have been reading is so distasteful that I can barely believe what I am reading. I find it pathetic that so many fellow Catholics are so incredibly judgemental. Do even half of you know the words to the song? Just because the song was written as a tribute to Janice Joplin and performed by Bette Midler (as well as many other artists), doesn't mean it is an improper song for a spiritual encounter. There are so many flavors of liturgy for every conceivable occasion and I pray that people will appreciate each in its context and remember that culture, environment and PEOPLE should be considered before condemnation takes place. I remember clearly a message from Jesus Himself "Judge not lest you be judged". What do you say folks?

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