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October 19, 2006


Patrick Rothwell

Sounds very good. As to the last bullet point, I would prefer that "archaic" thees, thys, thous, Holy Ghost, etc. NOT be eliminated at all from the hymns since those words are a time-honored manner in which English-speaking peoples worship, both Catholic and Protestant. And, the modernizations are usually aesthetically less pleasing and/or do not scan the meter of the hymn well. Are we going to sing "How Great You Are" instead of "How Great Thou Art?"

And, I don't see any evidence that good old hymns won't be bowdlerized by clumsy horizontal inclusive language. Are we going to be forever sandbagged with "Good Christian Friends Rejoice," as opposed to the old and venerable "Good Christian Men Rejoice?"

But, I am pleased, at least, that the Bishops won't seem to stand for bowdlerization of texts that ruin the theological structure of a "liturgical song," whatever that means.

Fletch F. Fletch

It sounds flippant to say so, but it really is prudent: Simply disallow any hymns written after, say, 1950. It would work wonders and eliminate any subjective judgment.

Patrick Rothwell

And, FWIW, will this mean that certain beloved hymns of the reformed evangelical tradition not be able to be sung, such as Amazing Grace?

And how about the following verse of "The Church's One Foundation:"

Though with a scornful wonder
Men see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder,
By heresies distressed:
Yet saints their watch are keeping,
Their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
Shall be the morn of song!

Is eliminating this verse an exercise in dumbing-down the concepts of heresy and schism, or must the verse be eliminated as quite orthodox insofar as it could presuppose the Anglican "branch theory" of the Church?

Questions, questions.

Dave Wells

Unfortunately, the norms are insufficient to address the problem of contemporary liturgical music. An excellent article on the proposed norms may be found in the article "Retrieving 'A Treasure of Inestimable Value'" by Susan Benofy, found in the March 2006 online issue of the Adoremus Bulletin (www.adoremus.org).

As Ms. Benofy points out in her article, Norm 1 would essentially mean that only two bishops would approve most of the music used in US dioceses - the Bishop of Portland, where OCP is published, and the Archbishop of Chicago where GIA and World Library Publications are located.

These bishops would be "supported in his work... by the USCCB Secretariat on the Liturgy" according to the Norm. The members of the Music and Liturgy Subcommittee of the Secretariat (presumably the individuals who would provide most of the support) include the vice-president and editor of GIA Publications in Chicago, the President of the National Associations of Pastoral Musicians, as well as one of the "St Louis Jesuits." Given the overall theme of their work, we can easily surmise as to where their sympathies may lie.

An interesting review of the Subcommittee's initial work may be found in a PowerPoint presentation on the USCCB website. According to the information on the presentation, a review of 20 popular liturgical songs (unnamed) revealed that only 10% referred to God as "Father", only 35% specifically referred to Christ, and none - none - of the songs referred to the persons of the Most Holy Trinity, "the central mystery of Christian faith and life" (CCC, #234). In addition, only 10% (a tithe?) of the songs were in praise of God.

While the proposed directory may warn of "doctrinal compromise," it will be interesting to see if the bishops are given any "teeth" to deal with problem songs, regardless of popularity. I have long wondered why individual songs used in Mass are not required to have an Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat since they are used in the liturgy. I have no doubt that many of them would fail the test. For that reason, the bishops should provide a list of specific songs considered inappropriate for Catholic worship.

RP Burke

Re OCP: That publisher is not only in the archdiocese of Portland, Ore. -- it is OWNED by the archdiocese of Portland, Ore. (Its former name is the Catholic Truth Society of Oregon.)

Therefore, any effect of these new norms on the music from OCP will be minimal at best, or, more likely, nil.


You know, it used to be that every archdiocese had its own hymnal editions, with its own archbishop's individual approval notice in front.

Just sayin'. :)


They should just issue a blanket anathema against any and all Haugen/Hass garbage. That would cover most of what passes for Catholic music in American churches these days.

And yes, Protestant hmyns like "Amazing Grace" should also be banned from liturgical use. I like "Amazing Grace" and have no problem with it as such, but it does not belong in a Catholic liturgy. Vaguely mystical pseudo-folk music like "Morning has Broken" should also be banned.

It's a shame that with such a great history of brilliant Catholic music available to chose from - Gregorian Chant, Palestrina, other great Mediaeval and Renaissance music, and even some modern works, such as Durufle's Requiem, Arvo Part's Berliner Messe, etc. - that the state of music in Catholic Masses has sunk so low. It's an aesthetic and liturgical abomination. I'd rather hear no music at all at Mass than the junk that most Churches with their guitar-based faux-folk ensembles inflict on us.

Little Gidding

Where may I submit a brief to cast "Lord of the Dance" into the outer darkness?

John Kasaian

At least the Bishops are doing something! They need our prayers... heck they need Divine Intervention.

In my parish we're blessed with an outstanding music director, but the 'Alleluia sounds a lot like one of the numbers from "The Brave Little Toaster"

Patrick Rothwell

"And yes, Protestant hmyns like "Amazing Grace" should also be banned from liturgical use. I like "Amazing Grace" and have no problem with it as such, but it does not belong in a Catholic liturgy."

Unfortunately, that would eliminate 99 percent of the vast majority of the best congregational hymns. Frankly, most of the pre-Vatican II Catholic hymns I have heard stink to high heaven, with some notable exceptions like the hymns of Faber and "Hail Holy Queen Enthroned Above." Stink-blossom hymns like "Bring Flowers of the Fairest" should be allowed to wilt away, forever.

Dave Wells

John Kasaian,

I must disagree with you. I don't think the bishops are doing anything about this. First of all, the new norms will require a 2/3 vote, which seems unlikely to me. Second, even if the bishops pass it, they are placing the responsibility for approving all liturgical music in the hands of two bishops - one of whom, as RP Burke points out - owns OCP. Third, the 'musical experts' upon whom these two bishops will rely for guidance include one of the publishers for GIA, and one of the St Louis Jesuits! Fourth, while they intend to comply with LA's requirement of a Common Repertoire, they give themselves an out by allowing songs outside the Repertoire to be used in the Liturgy. Thus Haugen/Hass are here to stay.

Unless their collective feet are held to the fire (as in the case of the translation of the Mass) by those in Rome, nothing will change.

I for one intend to write my bishop and outline my concerns about this. When those of us in the pews are forced to sing heretical hymns during the Mass, is it any wonder that Catholics are losing their faith?


"Doctrinally correct" hymns...what a novel idea.


"Doctrinally correct" hymns...what a novel idea.


"Unfortunately, that would eliminate 99 percent of the vast majority of the best congregational hymns" - Good!

Why do we need so-called "hymns" at all? As I said before, the Church has a great history of doctrinally orthodox and artistically impeccable music at its disposal. Use it!

Personally, I think the best option would be to ban all music except plainchant and a cappella polyphony from liturgical use!

Dwight Longenecker

You mean we can't sing Kumbayah anymore?


Gather us in...Not!


I hope something good comes of this, but I'm not holding my breath for it. Most of the stuff we sing nowadays is heretical and pastors know it--my pastor specifically said it one night during a Bible class--but no one is willing to do anything about it. Add to this the fact that many a choir director and even cantors are not Catholic. Who does one turn to in this case?


I'm with you. We really don't need hymnals. Our parish hmynal is chocked full of Protestant Hymns anyway. Way in the back, are a few old Catholic Hymns (maybe a half dozen), which are rarely if ever sung.

All of the newer hymns are so doctrinly unsound that a Baptist or Calvinsit, or New Ager would feel right at home. You know something is wrong when the opening hymn is Bringing in the Sheaves.

Susan Peterson

It seems as if the Pope could make a great stroke for the reform of the reform (or, if you like, for the renewal of Catholic worship) by targeting those two dioceses to get orthodox bishops with serious spine when next it is time for a change.
Susan Peterson


All of these powerful phrases that will, no doubt, prevent the "Committee on Liturgy" and the bishops from extracting the teeth from this document:

"...songs outside the core repertoire may also be used..."

"...not so much...a list of approved and unapproved songs..."

"...SHOULD be..."

"...SHOULD reflect..."

"...balanced approach..."

"...CONSISTENT replacement..."

"...SHOULD always be..."

"...SHOULD never..."

Wow! What an impressive document! The best thing about it is that the bishops closed ALL
the loopholes favored by modernist "liturgists" who publish the "songs" in the "worship aids" to be used in "the liturgy". I expect, therefore, an immediate resurgence of SACRED HYMN-WRITERS who will publish the HYMNS in the MISSALS to be used at THE HOLY MASS. I can expect this since the bishops truly want to improve the sorry state of Catholic worship today and didn't just come up with these guidelines only because Rome forced them to...Right, guys???

Anon in the South

The Haugen/Haas collection of music is here because it fulfilled a "need" when there was "nothing available" and because it made and still makes GIA a lot of money. We cannot pass away the fact that both GIA and OCP makes a lot of money passing this stuff off as "quality liturgical music" and selling it to both musicians who do not have a lot of theological training and pastors who do not understand the relationship of music to the liturgy. The fault inevitably lies with the musicians who bought and continue to buy this stuff because they really know no better. Sorry, but the few bishops I actually know really do not have a clue about this question.


My comment here: http://hymnographyunbound.blogspot.com/2006/10/washington-october-18-2006-u.html


Vaguely mystical pseudo-folk music like "Morning has Broken" should also be banned.

Even though the tune is a Celtic melody originally called "Shield of St Patrick"? And dates back most of the way to the time of St Patrick?

Where may I submit a brief to cast "Lord of the Dance" into the outer darkness?

There's a Wiccan version you can find in SF filk collections that has different and better music (much less smarmy/saccharine than "Simple Gifts"); try using the Wiccan tune with the (powerful) Christian lyrics sometime.


The melody may go way back, but the lyrics do not. There's a long tradition in folk-music of using old tunes, airs, etc. with new lyrics.

I lived in Dublin for a year and love Celitc folk music, but, as I said before, that does not mean it belongs in the liturgy! No matter how whether St. Patrick would have recognized the tune or not.


BTW...has anyone listened to "Don't Download this Song", the new Weird Al parody?

This could be a GREAT style parody of all the Catholic music written in the 60s and 70s...


Sorry for the typos above. That should be "Celtic", and strike "now" from the last line.

Brian Day

I am (not) surprised that the "guidelines" do not mention the singing of propers and antiphons.

Just get rid of the "4 hymn sandwich"! :-)

Rich Leonardi

If people want to hear saccharine tunes, let bad hymns continue to dominate every mid-morning "Family Mass" from now through the next decade. Just mandate that one Mass per parish be free from hymns altogether.

/ snark


Does this mean we can finally retire songs like "All Are Welcome"?
Beginning novena to St. Cecilia.

David Athey

"Praise for them, springing / Fresh from the Word!" is wonderful Christian poetry, not "vaguely mystical."


It's predictable that so few would be pleased by this development.

My sense is that if you want good music, go out and make it yourself. If you're not a musician (or even if you are), either be willing to invest the effort to improve your parish or hit the road to find a place that suits you--if you can.

If there's heresy out there, it more a matter of music that doesn't fit the accuser's personal taste than anything doctrinal or catechetical.

I do suspect the USCCB will get the 2/3rds, especially since they're about a year late in compliance with Liturgiam Authenticam. And Vatican approval seems very likely now that all the wheels have been greased with ICEL, Vox Clara, and all. Everybody's one big happy Catholic family, don't you know? If the SLJ's are talking with the Adoremus crew, it must be so.

The US isn't the only nation with a few musical nightmares in its liturgical closet, and though a few of its publishers have an international reach, let's not kid ourselves that the Vatican is interested in American conspiracy theories on bishops, publishers, and composers.

And the big composers, even if they were ratted on by a bishop, have the "star power" (rather unfortunately I might add) to move off to a place, found their own company and keep banging out the hits, as it were. Somehow I don't think the music publishing establishment is quaking in its boots over this. They've been part of the behind-the-scenes discussion for at least two years now.


Protestant redux: The bloated USCCB remains very silent about the use of time proven Gregorian chant but encourages well tempered hymns aka John Wesleyian form of service.

More of the same overturning the heap

Old Zhou

I think I agree with Todd.

The big money LitMu publishers (OCP, GIA, etc.) are tight with their local bishops, and have nothing to fear. I'm sure some of their biggest revenue produces will be in the "Common Repertoire" and required to be $old in every Catholic worship aid in the country.

It is a numbers game for the publishers.
So maybe five or ten percent of their songs get put in the bottom drawer.
But maybe twenty percent become (mandatory) national standards.
O happy day!

Little Gidding

I have no problem with the tune or the words to "Simple Gifts." It's the heretical content--drawn from the Gnostic Acts of John--that make "Lord of the Dance" a prime candidate for the round file.


You can also sing "Morning Has Broken" using the words of "St Patrick's Breastplate" as my parish does.


A sincere question on this road bump:

Regarding, "this core repertoire will be included in all worship aids used in the dioceses of the United States of America," does that mean that the next edition of Adoremus Hymnal will be required to add this core repertoire to its content?

Do they know what they're asking? Or will it apply only to the hymnals of the Big Three?


I love the words of "St. Francis Breastplate," but as a child of the '70s, I can't get Cat Stevens out of my head.

Anon in the South

Its money driving this train,as it has been for the 25 years I have been practicing as a RC musician. The collective memory has been altered so that the mindless drivel passing for liturgical music is accepted point blank. I'm telling you, its the musicians who are at most fault for accepting it,using it and lastly, buying it. Market forces are what they and the theologically ill trained are buying it. The bishops can wish and pass what they will, but the publishers and musicians who know no better (the large majority) continue to use it. The heart of the question may be that we need guidelines for hiring musicians who have reasonable education to do this and not pass themselves off as the authority. I argue for national standards for musicians and the repertory will start to care for itself.

Kevin in Atlanta


The music minister at my parish is Episcopalian. That accounts for the heavy doses of ecumenical hymns.


its the musicians who are at most fault for accepting it,using it and lastly, buying it.

The problem is these musicans got their spiritual formation for the Catholic church. We trained them not to object to anything. Least of stuff that makes you feel warm and fuzzy all over. It comes back to lousy teaching of the faith and that comes back to the teaching office of Bishop. They can generate documents all they want but until music ministers understand the faith it will be an uphill battle.

Morning's Minion

Somebody mentioned getting rid of anything post-1950. For me, the real problem centers around the awful protestant monstrosities that form the basis of the processional and recessional repertoire in so many churches. Even if fully doctrinally orthodox, I just can't shake the fact that they are not Catholic, and feel oddly out of place at Mass. I'll take "Gather Us In" over these things any day, thank you very much.

Since we don't have a good Catholic repertoire, why oh why can't we just go back to the propers, and sing the mass as it is supposed to be sung? As somebody who can't sing to save his life, let me tell you that chant is a lot easier than these leaden protestant dirges. I can be done. I've been to masses in Vietnamese where (almost) the whole mass is chanted, with active participation from the congregation.


There is a lot that needs fixing, but first things first. There is heresy out there, not a lot but some, and a negative judgment must be made.

What we sing matters. It gets under the skin, which is part of its power. As the old saying goes, did you ever hear anyone leave Mass humming the homily?

But what if the song lies?

Dave Wells


You're absolutely right. I seem to recall that Arius, the arch-heretic, could write a catchy tune. Arianism spread in part due to the appeal of music. In it's time, "There was a time when He was not" was all the rage in some churches.


It would also be helpful if music directors and organists at Roman Catholic churches were actually Roman Catholic. Both of mine are Baptist. Naturally, chant is completely foreign to their experience and sensibility. What they know is hymns, Protestant ones. Can't blame 'em.

Fr. Totton

I am curious to see how Fr. Weber's plainchant project works out. It seems this is a viable alternative to the "four hymn sandwich"


St. Ephrem used the same tactic as the Arians, but for good.


"Somebody mentioned getting rid of anything post-1950. For me, the real problem centers around the awful protestant monstrosities that form the basis of the processional and recessional repertoire in so many churches. Even if fully doctrinally orthodox, I just can't shake the fact that they are not Catholic, and feel oddly out of place at Mass. I'll take "Gather Us In" over these things any day, thank you very much."--

Oh, you just don't like Protestants b/c they vote Republican, by and large.

Little Gidding

I very much like most of the Protestant hymns we sing--those of the Wesleys, Isaac Watts, and some others. Those hymns could certainly be winnowed for orthodoxy--or, better, winnow out heterodoxy. The way music is done in the Mass nowadays, with the hymn-sandwich-effect, or the music-bed-effect, is itself not really Catholic, I think, but more Protestant anyway. I'd be much happier if no hymns were sung for Mass at all, but instead if the Mass (or at least parts of it) was itself sung. But that's not going to happen anytime soon, at least with the Novus Ordo. Short of that, please don't dump the hymns of Isaac Watts, John Wesley, Lowell Mason, or Thomas Dorsey et al. unless individual hymns have heterodox content. But please do get rid of all that stuff that sounds like the New Christy Minstrels, the Lettermen, Buffy St. Marie, or Sesame Street.

Morning's Minion


I may be a progressive politically, but I'm a big traditionalist when it comes to the liturgy!

Henry Dieterich

Being in a very orthodox parish where we use music from a number of sources, I find the prospect of having our liturgical music controlled by a bunch of semi-clerical bureaucrats in the name of the bishops dismal. I imagine that not all the commenters on this blog would like the music we use. We mix traditional Catholic hymns (when was the last time your parish sang "Sweet Sacrament" at Mass?), good Protestant hymns ("All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name", "O For a Thousand Tongues", etc.), songs popular in the charismatic renewal (many of them home-grown), other songs written by members of the parish, and "praise and worship" style music (some of which I could do without, frankly). Most of the settings of the Mass parts and psalms we use were written by members of the parish. We use songs that refer to Jesus Christ as Lord and to the Father, and we do not yield to political correctness (although we only sing "Rise Up, O Men of God" on men's retreats). To lose this would be a tragedy, in my view.

While I'm sure that the all-chant Mass is the best in theory, I'm not sure that the current, or indeed any reasonably imaginable, translation into English could possibly avoid sounding outright silly in places. I love the Byzantine liturgy, both because of its theological profundity and because it is sung all the way through. But even Byzantine parishes use hymns as well.

I have loved the 1940 Episcopal hymnal since I was in high school and the school chapel services used it. Having been raised in the Unitarian church, I knew the tunes, but with altered words to remove references to the Trinity, to Jesus, and generally to God. Hearing the real words was inspiring, even if at the time I did not believe in them. Some of the hymns are vapid, but many were written by people who had real faith and some theological knowledge. The hymns of the Wesleys are often profound: consider the later verses of "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing," at least in its original form before the feminists got after it. I'd love to get rid of all the unorthodox hymns that are used in the Church, but I'm afraid the bishops would throw out the baby with the bathwater; indeed, that they would throw out the baby and keep the bathwater.

Morning's Minion

By the way, I think the essay by Joseph Swain is excellent. I've had similar experiences in Europe. The more I think about it, though, the more I think that "one size fits all" is a bad idea.

First, we should definitely restore the "St. Mark's model" (for want of a better term) in the United States, where possible.

Second, though, and I know a lot you you will disagree with me, but I think there is a role for the more modern post-conciliar music (such as the much-maligned "Gather Us In" and "Gifts of Finest Wheat"). I'm thinking of popular, spiritually strong, liturgies you often find on Sunday evenings in campuses, or in places like Holy Trinity in Georgetown. I would argue that these liturgies have indeed developed organically from the Council, and meet the authentic spiritual needs of many people. They are vibrant and nurturing, with a strong sense of community worship.

But what I don't see a role for are the leaden protestant dirges (Wesley etc). They seem like artificial add-ons to the liturgy, a relic from a different tradition that does not sit well with the flow of the Catholic Mass.



I agree with you - what I'm saying is not, "Make every Sunday Mass in every parish a no-hymn chant" - I'm saying...let's, er..mention it and present it as the ideal - in other words:

Let the sensibilities, traditions and yes, "rules" of the Church be our first reference point in shaping the music of our liturgies, rather than the products and priorities of music publishing companies.

Not all can do it. Probably not all should. But the central reference point should be the former, I think, and I don't understand why it isn't.

David Athey

"But what I don't see a role for are the leaden protestant dirges (Wesley etc)"


leaden dirges???


Uh-oh. Bishop Trautperson isn't gonna like this.


There is one Protestant hymn I would love to hear more often while the faithful receive Holy Communion: "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence."

It uses beautiful poetry based on the Liturgy of St. James (5th Century, I think), and the tune (some old French carol) is properly ethereal for that part of the Mass.

So much better to "ponder nothing earthly minded ... Christ our God to earth descendeth, Our full homage to demand" than "bread that is broken ... wine that is poured."

It is not the archaic language like "descendeth" that offends, but rather the archaic teaching like "our full homage to demand."

The Real Presence had better be the "source and summit" of our faith; if we depended upon preaching and singing, we would have departed a looooooong time ago!

Sue T.

As a 31-year-old Gen-Xer, I'm really annoyed that certain music directors, bishops, priests, etc. are depriving us from our musical heritage. I grew up with many of the hymns others have mentioned (i.e. Haugen/Hass, protestant hymns, etc). Sadly, I'm so conditioned that I don't see that kind of music as bad.

However, I'm now starting to delve into more traditional music and chant. My analogy is this: It's like experiencing steak for the first time after only being fed hot dogs for 30+ years.

Eileen R

I love Wesley's hymns. They're grand if you have a real organ. If you don't, though, they can be a bit underwhelming with a hockey arena style organ and a uninspired congregation.

Meanwhile, I always wondered how bad "Bring Flowers of the Fairest" could be, when people would bring it up on blogs constantly as an example of bad pre-Vatican II music. And then, one day, I went to a church where they were celebrating some Marian feast, and out came all the kids in the parish bringing up roses - which was nice - and then up started "Bring Flowers of the Fairest" and I realized exactly how bad it was indeed.


It is precisely this conference that makes the imminent Universal Indult(God willing!) so crucial. I believe that only through the Traditional Latin Mass, as well as the correct interpretation of the Mass of VII (ie Fr. Fessio) that music suitable for the Sacred Liturgy can be reclaimed, relearned, made normative.

A collection of "songs" given the imprimatur by this "hapless bench of bishops" (in large part) is just what Mr. O.C.P. Haugenhaas, GIA esq. desires. Forever OK.

Amy's incredibly informative discussions these two weeks, beginning with her musing on "something wrong" with the present flow of Holy Mass (talk, sing a "song", talk, etc.) that has generated such important discussion, has gotten me reading on what the Mass should be: sung. Read Cardinal Ratzinger's A New Song for the Lord, containing yet more solid background on the mind of the Church.

Last night I was listening to The Schola Cantorum of St. Peter in Chicago, and I realized that this is what is meant by newly created, original music. Certainly not folk/rock derivations by cafeteria Catholics.


I apologize for taking an extra post. Does anyone think that Steubenville's influence on music at Mass has been negative? Although the orthodoxy there is strong, the students inspired by their faith (we had a group of them at our parish this summer) and an excellent leaven in the world, they take with them, from my observation, a positive view of the folksy Evangelical emotion-based music that they carry right into Mass. It doesn't appear that they have been taught Sacred Music.
Steubenville appears to be a place that, if they would change course and teach Sacred Music to students, a large impact would be felt.


By all means, let's get rid of the hymns that teach heresy, and the songs that are not sacred in character and really aren't appropriate for church. But let's keep our good hymns; including the ones we borrowed from the Protestant tradition, the ones from our own past (and don't you dare diss "Bring Flowers of the Fairest" and "On This Day, O Beautiful Mother"!). And yes, let's keep the ones that are traditional to our kids, that they would miss(that would be Glory and Praise, and the SLJ's). And let's bring back chant and baroque polyphony. Nobody is going to be happy, all the time. But I'll put up with your favorites if you'll put up with mine sometimes. And it isn't Christian to be telling one another that our tastes stink, even if it's true.



The big issue is that this is not a taste issue.

1) The CHURCH, in its official church documents and tradition, gives chant "pride of place." There is room for other music, but chant should be our central referent.

2) There has, throughout the church's history, constant discussion of what music is appropriate for Catholic liturgy and what is not. Most of the "popular" Catholic hymns developed OUTSIDE of Mass - for popular devotions, processions, etc. There has been a constant battle to keep music for the Mass at a certain level of solemnity. There have been many times in the past when Rome has had to say, "WHOA" to things like the creeping influence of opera, and so on.

What it all comes down to is that "taste" is not the issue. Appropriateness for liturgy is, and that is not as subjective as you think. Bottom lines:

1) Music for Mass should not be overly emotional, decorative, or showy.

2) It must not simply echo secular music.

Those are principles, long-established in the Church, long-ignored in the post-V2 church, but fundamental to an understanding of what the Mass IS.


The tune of "Morning Is Broken" is not anything about St. Patrick, nor is it anything like that ancient! It's a 19th century Highland tune, and became famous because it was associated with a Christmas hymn in Gaelige by a _Scottish_ female poet, thank you very much. The tune is known as "Bunessan" after the town and church of Bun Easain. You may read the details (and a translation of the original and still-loved hymn, "Leanabh an Aigh") here.

You are confusing "Morning Is Broken" with the tune of "St. Patrick's Breastplate", aka the "Lorica", aka "The Deer's Cry". That poem is indeed very old, but the tune is not anything like as old as the poem. It is possible that some version of "The Deer's Cry" was at one point set to "Bunessan", but that would be an innovation.

I appreciate that misinformation about folk music is rife. We live in a world where hymnals claim that "Mairi's Wedding", a very typically Scottish tune, is "Marie's Wedding" and "Trad. Irish". Sighhhhh. This is not to say that you can't sometimes argue origins ("King of the Fairies" might be Irish, Scottish, Welsh, or Manx, depending on who you ask). But "Bunessan"'s pedigree is pretty clear.


"Bring Flowers of the Fairest" is pretty clearly a ripoff of that fairly old (some say Elizabethan or older) Scottish pipe tune, "The Flowers of the Forest".

But not in a good way.

"The Flowers of the Forest", especially when sung with the words (written much later by another Scottish poetess!) is a solemn and stirring song about dead soldiers. "Flowers of the Fairest" isn't.


Even if we were not able to immediately go back to propers, even if we can't have a really solid, Catholic core of songs, even if the music doesn't change right away, something must be done right now to fix a really leaky boat.

There are heretical songs out there, being sung in Catholic parishes.

An example, chosen because of its obvious complete lack of malice, is the popular Christian Radio Christmastime song, Mary Did You Know. Now this is a song written, I believe, by the separated brethren, for the separated brethren. It's Protestant, not Catholic. But when taken wholesale into a Catholic Mass, as this song is in many parishes, it teaches something against Catholic doctrine.

"This Child whom you delivered will soon deliver you": this is a repeated refrain. It's all right for a Protestant to sing that, but it's not right for a Catholic. Catholics believe in the Immaculate Conception: Mary was "delivered" (from sin) at her conception, not "soon."

In my mom's parish, a choir member who had studied theology tweaked that bit to say "This child whom you delivered will soon give us to you." (John 19, "Behold your son, behold your mother.") If he hadn't, I would hold that it is really wrong and misleading to sing that song--even if no objections are made to its authorship by a non-Catholic Christian, or its musical style. Simply on the basis of its words, it contradicts Church teaching.

Eileen R

I appreciate that misinformation about folk music is rife. We live in a world where hymnals claim that "Mairi's Wedding", a very typically Scottish tune, is "Marie's Wedding" and "Trad. Irish". Sighhhhh

Oh surely it went "Step we gaily, on we go, heel for heel, and toe for toe. Arm and arm and row on row, all for Murray's wedding"?

(Only teasing. At any hypothetic future wedding of mine, Mairi's Wedding must be played, but at the reception, not at church.)

dave boyd

I offer an observation, not an argument. In my observation, those young people who have demanded a more seriously committed and more Christ-centered approach towards Catholic faith and liturgy are not necessarily demanding a more "traditional" flavor to music. I have watched a university parish in the midwest move from being horribly leftist/heterodox to vibrantly orthodox over a period of over 10 years. This growth was due in large part to pressure from below from active students, with help from successive bishops cooperation from the pastors (at first the pastors were somewhat bemused and surprised at these developments, but they became more enthusiastic over time.) (The university town leftist "permanent community" fought back tenaciously, but ultimately receded.) Though I myself prefer more traditional music styles, I have observed that the students leading the charge for a more Christ-centered ministry have not demanded a move to Adoremus style liturgy. This from student leaders who have demanded or at least responded enthusiastically to "solid food" in terms of doctrine, morals, and spiritual formation, and have supported the move to jettison the liturgical irregularities and abuses that, in this place, peaked (or should I say 'troughed') in the early to mid '90s. These people still enthusiastically sing from "Gather Comprehensive," and often use a mix of protestant hymns, charismatic style praise and worship, the better examples of post 60s liturgy (more scripture and God-centered -- I realize even as I write that much of the best of that stuff is more old-testament-scripture based and less Christocentric, so I say "God-centered" rather than "Christ-centered." This movement at this particular parish is, to be sure, strongly influenced by evangelical/charismatic "reverts," and we'll see what happens with the incoming much more traditionalist priest.



I think you'll get no argument here, Dave. After all, WYD music is mostly praise band type music, and I'd say Exhibit A for your case would be Steubenville itself, and then the youth events it hosts with thousands of young people each year across the country.


As Auguste Dessus once told the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris, "Your Eminence, extra Gregorianum, nulla sallus!" [trans. - Without Gregorian Chant, there is no salvation!]


I hereby cast my vote for the decimation of the word "Halelluyah" (or however they spell it). It should never be used in the context of the Mass. I have heard too many Catholic Masses where they used this abomination in song. (What's their problem with Alleluia anyways--a much more expressive and beautiful word?)



Funny you should mention that. It seems at least one of the people who went around in the 1950's telling parish choirs "they were singing 'Alleluia' all wrong" was none other than Rembert Weakland, then Archabbot of St. Vincent's Abbey in Latrobe, PA. He explicitly said it was to be "Hallelujah," and people followed his lead. This is anecdotal from the choir members themselves.


How about "The King is Coming", replete with Klezmer band? Anyone for a polka Mass? Liturgical mazurkas? Liturgical czardas? Step-dancing? Benediction hoe-down? It's a wonder they didn't turn "Superkalafragislisticexpialidocious" into a meditation hymn.


[It's a wonder they didn't turn "Superkalafragislisticexpialidocious" into a meditation hymn.]

And why not? If there could be a good argument made, why not? Whatever reason my parish used for singing "Sunrise, Sunset" could be used for Ms. Mary Poppins.

The most important thing to be doing right now is to be laying a foundation of solid PRINCIPLES. It should never again be just a matter of opinion, whether we sing I Danced in the Morning or Panis Angelicus or whatever. There should be a basis for judgment.

The strength of the norms is their sound criteria. They fail in governance, I believe, but the principles they give are a big step forward.


Did I not say earlier "The fix is in folks. The fix is in." It's only going to get worse here in America.


Hey, I remember "Mairi's Wedding" - the college contradancing group I belonged to had a popular dance set to that tune (I know, you're probably shuddering). And now I'm very curious to hear "Bring Flowers Of The Fairest" - I'd probably regret getting that wish, though!

As long as the bishops don't take the line of "This, and no other" as opposed to "You could try this," I doubt a single thing will change. It's probably better if they don't take the first line; imagine the mine of mediocrity they'd agree on! (I'm spoiled, though -the SLC cathedral has wonderful, wonderful music, and I don't want anyone messing with it).

Brian Day

My sense is that if you want good music, go out and make it yourself. If you're not a musician (or even if you are), either be willing to invest the effort to improve your parish or hit the road to find a place that suits you--if you can.

It's a nice thought, but it is a lot harder than you can imagine.

A story: A couple of years ago at my parish, I was in a conversation with a USL (ubiquitous song leader) aka canter. We got to talking about using Latin in the Mass, and possibly using chant. She said that it would be impossible because the Bishop (Tod Brown - 'nuff said) would never allow it. All music directors and cantors had to be certified. Certified by -- wait for it -- OCP.
So even if you developed a more "traditional" music program, if the diocese found out, you would be sent to an OCP music workshop for further "training". (Kind'a sounds like a re-education camp, huh?)

So your idea is nice, but without the Bishop's backing, it won't go anywhere. At least in Orange County.

St. Elizabeth of Cayce

The doctrine of the Trinity should never be compromised through the consistent replacement of masculine pronominal references to the three Divine persons.

If this happened, if publishers actually respected the original words of the composer/translator, or the language that the faithful have sung for centuries, I'd be one happy camper. It does nothing to diminish my belief in God's personal love for me to be reminded of the gender that God chose to use when referring to Himself.

The elimination of archaic language should never alter the meaning and essential theological structure of a venerable liturgical song.

Whether ancient liturgical song, Wesleyan composition, or ditty (no, I don't really want ditties in the Mass...), I don't think we have any business eliminating someone else's language. If some of the language is ancient, well so is our translation of the Our Father. If some of the language is heretical, pick a new song.

In the Easter season, for the Masses where I am able to influence music choices, we do not do "Lord of the Dance." I love "Simple Gifts" as a folk song, but cannot abide the bouncy tempo of LotD for "they whipped and they stripped and they hung me high..." If this song shows up in the Easter Vigil, I just smile or otherwise avoid even mouthing that section.

I look forward to seeing how the norms develop.

Now, to figure out how to make "Happy Birthday" disappear from our pre-liturgy repertoire someday....

Patrick Rothwell

"Funny you should mention that. It seems at least one of the people who went around in the 1950's telling parish choirs "they were singing 'Alleluia' all wrong" was none other than Rembert Weakland, then Archabbot of St. Vincent's Abbey in Latrobe, PA. He explicitly said it was to be "Hallelujah," and people followed his lead. This is anecdotal from the choir members themselves."

When I first scanned that, I thought that Rembert Weakland was channeling his inner Jeff Buckley or Leonard Cohen. Now THAT is a liturgical disaster in the making. I can just see a Jeff Buckley wannabe trying to sing and play (badly) Hallelujah during Communion.

That OCP reeducation camp sure sounds like a grim waste of a weekend. If, God forbid, I should ever be forced to attend such a place, I'll be sure to ask for some Zyklon B to put me out of my misery.

RP Burke

It should never again be just a matter of opinion.... There should be a basis for judgment.

Exactly the problem, exactly the solution. And no one gets it.

RP Burke

All music directors and cantors had to be certified. Certified by -- wait for it -- OCP.

Actually, I think it's NPM that does the certifying ...


and for organists, done jointly with the more classically attuned American Guild of Organists ...



The recommendations are remarkable for their theological/pastoral astuteness. The weakening of Trinitarian theology--that is something that is going on in the academy. The hymnals edit out "He" for gender-inclusive reasons, most likely. But the overall effect is the same as the more ideologically-driven theological "Trinitarian"-ism (speaking of "God" rather than of whichever of the Persons we mean)--an effectively Sabellian outlook. This is a grave present danger, and the hymnals have been unwittingly contributing--and the Subcommittee caught it. Nice one.



Who mandates certification by NPM? Do you have to be a Roman Catholic to be certified? What must you do to be certified?



Sorry, just the first question is germane. NPM certification looks like it's merely designed to make NPM "company men." Look at their initial application: you have to be an NPM member, you have to pony up $20, and you have to sing their repertoire (see initial app form) and submit a video. You're judged by other NPM certified cantors.

Nowhere on the initial application are you required to state anything about your baptism or good standing as a Roman Catholic.

Worse than worthless.


Ellen (way above) makes a good point. Liturgical music ought not to be a "taste" issue. Unfortunately, we frequently mistake taste for discernment. (Or, as I've been taught, we should avoid confusing "approach issues" with "righteousness issues".) I'm with Dave Boyd above -- let's follow Scripture's admonition to assess the fruit rather than whether we like the look of the branch.

Personally, greater suffering is inflicted on me by an "Ave Maria" sung by a lackluster congregation eager to be first out of the parking lot than by a heartfelt rendering of a marginal praise-and-worship song in the context of a worshipful and orthodox celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

And, for the record, I don't give a toot about whether people praise God by saying "Alleluia" or "Hallelujah". But that's just my inclination, and there's no reason why my preference should trump anyone else's.



As I see it, the issue about "Alleluia" is about power, not taste. It was one small way the reformers ridiculed tradition and made tradition-minded people feel obsolete and small.


Roz, just because we sometimes think taste = discernment, that doesn't mean that there is no such thing as discernment. It means we haven't gotten to the principles yet.

RP Burke


I have no interest in NPM certification. Cantor certification requires no knowledge or ability in what should be the core repertoire of responsorial and communion psalmody: plainchant.

Certification is an effort to add "value" to one's membership in NPM, a credential that you know what you're doing. I can demonstrate that I know what I'm doing at a far higher level than certification offers, so I couldn't be bothered.

One needn't be an AGO member, either, to be an organist or choir director.

F. C. Bauerschmidt

Re Alleluia/Halleluja: it is, after all, a Hebrew word and "Halleluja" is somewhat close to the Hebrew pronunciation (it is also, I believe, the way the word is typically rendered in German).

So do folks here sing the "Alleluia Chorus" when they do Handel's Messiah?


Actually, I thought that the reason someone brought up the Hallelujah/ Alleluia question was to point to the trendy, unfounded rules that often pass for liturgical wisdom.


Definitely not!


My "definitely not" response was to F.C's comment about the "Hallelujah Chorus."

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