Why Praise and Worship Music is Praise, But Not Worship

The first time I ever went to a Life Teen Mass I was sixteen years old. It was New Years’ Eve and I thought, instead of going downtown with my pagan friends, I should be a good Catholic boy and ring in the New Year with Jesus. The parish that had the Life Teen Mass was not mine, but I went anyway. Everyone had been telling me that there were lots of people my age, who were serious about their faith, and that it would be a Spirit-filled time. Some of my friends were going to be there, too, so what could be better?

But as soon as the Mass started, I felt like I had stepped into a no-man’s land suspended between Catholicism and some vague form of Protestantism that I as a convert had never seen before. It wasn’t that the music was strange to me. I grew up with contemporary Christian music around the house and listened to it on the radio (when I wasn’t listening to classical music or Latin dance music). So I knew the songs. The church was full of high schoolers and Baby Boomers and they all seemed to know and love each other.

But as the Mass unfolded, I kept noticing things that I knew very well were not in the rubrics, those pesky little red directions in the Missal that tell us how to celebrate the Mass properly. The Life Teen coordinators had decided that they would modify the Mass to make it fit whatever they deemed necessary to get the kids involved. And so there was dancing, hand-holding, and music that had nothing to do with the actual texts of the Mass.

But then, it was time for the Eucharistic Prayer. The celebrant invited all the kids to come around the altar. As the church was quite full, this was rather cumbersome and also pointless. But everyone stood up and made their way as through a mosh pit (I am showing my age, now!) to get closer to the altar. I stayed behind in the last pew. And of course, the celebrant thought that I was too shy to come up and so he encouraged me, from the altar, to join the kids. I had had enough, and so I yelled from the back pew, “No, sorry, Father, I’m a Catholic, I don’t do that kind of thing,” and pulled out a rosary and knelt to pray it as I watched the Eucharistic Prayer degenerate into something eerily similar to the ecstatic cults we had studied about in Ancient Greek History.

Not only did I never go back to a Life Teen Mass, I started the next Sunday to go to the Orthodox Church. There I felt like I was worshipping God and not having earnest adults try and fail to make religion relevant to me by assuming I was too young or stupid to understand real worship. It was fifteen years before I ever had to participate in anything similar ever again. By this time, I was a priest and I had been asked to preside over a Holy Hour for young people. The youth minister in this particular parish was very sensitive to the fact that Praise and Worship was not my thing, and she warned me ahead of time.

As I knelt there in front of the Blessed Sacrament, I realized something. The same people were doing the music who were doing it fifteen years before. It was the same music, the same songs that I made fun of when I was the age of the kids who were in the pews behind me. How relevant is that? But this time the kids who were there just seemed bored. I asked them afterwards what they thought of it, and one young man said, “Well, that was ok, I guess. When are we having another Latin Mass, Father?”

Of all of my friends from high school who were Life Teeners, not one of them is a practicing Catholic anymore. Will the kids today who are raised on a diet of Praise and Worship continue to practice the Faith when they are no longer of that age middle-aged people in the Church want to cater to? I don’t know. But my experience has brought me to reflect on why Praise and Worship Music is not appropriate for the liturgy:

1. P&W music assumes that praise is worship.

All of us are called to lift our hearts, minds and voices to God in prayer. A particular type of prayer is praise, when we recognize God’s goodness, holiness and mercy by our own actions of praise. Praise has always been accompanied by music. Praise has always been something that takes place on an individual or small group level. It is often spontaneous and takes the form of culturally relevant symbols and forms. Praise is something common to all Christians and to many other religions.

Worship is indeed a type of praise, and music is an integral part of it. But the sacred liturgy is the public prayer of the Church, a corporate worship by which baptized Catholics enter into a Mystery which is not of their making. Being a corporate action, it is governed by law and tradition so as to preserve its unity throughout the world and its fidelity to the Message revealed by God. Worship is a Christian act of the baptized gathered by bonds of communion with the visible institutional Church.

P&W music actually identifies worship with praise, by grafting the freer and more individualistic nature of praise onto the communal prayer of the Church’s worship.

2. P&W music assumes that worship is principally something we do.

Martin Luther defined the Mass as a sacrifice of praise. It is something we render to God. The Council of Trent solemnly defined against Luther that the Mass is a true sacrifice. The Mass is the re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Christ to His Father on Calvary in the Holy Spirit. The Mass is something that Jesus does, the Redemption, the fruits of which are shared with us in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Worship is not Praise, but Sacrifice and Sacrament. Worship is something that Jesus Christ brings about in us through His self-offering to the Father.

P&W music reduces the Mass to a sacrifice of praise that we offer to God. Even when P&W proponents assent to the teaching of the Church on the Mass, it is as an abstract truth of faith. In the concrete, our sacrifice of praise is grafted onto that Sacrifice of Redemption. It overlooks the fact that it is the Sacrifice of Redemption that is the highest Praise to the Trinity, and that our participation in it is not by what we do, but by who we are as baptized Christians in the life of grace.

3. P&W music assumes as its first principle relevance.

P&W recognizes that music is important in the Church’s worship. But it also posits that music must “reach people where they are.” It must be relevant to those who hear it. Relevance, however, is an ambiguous notion. What is relevant to me may not be relevant to someone else, and so P&W introduces into the liturgy an element of subjectivism based on human concerns.

Often P&W is directed at an ostensibly missionary effort. The idea is that, if people find the music at Mass attractive or relevant, they might be brought into a deeper relationship with God. Yet, faith is a gift that comes from God, not from us. P&W attempts to clear the way for divine action, as if relevance could accomplish that.

4. P&W music assumes as its second principle the active participation of a certain age group

P&W essentially views active participation as everyone doing, singing and feeling a certain way about God when at Mass. The music is a means to produce an end. It also sees the absence of young people at church, and argues that, if the music at Mass were more like what young people like in their normal lives, they might be opened up to a more abundant life. Thus, P&W is designed often by middle-aged people with little or no theological, liturgical or musical background to coax teenagers and college-age kids with a similar background into a theological, liturgical and musical milieu. That milieu reduces the liturgy to a man-made act of praise engineered to produce an apostolic result.

5. P&W music self-consciously divides the Church into age and taste groups

P&W music is principally designed based on an abstract idea of what young people like. It often reflects more the trends of the past that were germane to P&W participants’ adolescence than it does the actual relevant trends of current adolescents.

It also tends to disparage the Church’s musical tradition by claiming that it is too difficult, elegant, or irrelevant to teens. For them, P&W is a grassroots, democratic, egalitarian, music relevant to youth. In contrast, the Church’s musical tradition is often painted as theatrical, aristocratic music for old people in concert halls.

By selectively choosing the abstract notion of youth and what is relevant to it as a criterion for liturgical music, P&W effectively divides the Church according to what is arbitrarily considered to be youthful and not youthful. It also argues that different “styles” are fine for the liturgy. This introduces into the liturgy the ambiguous notion of style and taste as a principle by which the liturgy and its music should be conducted.

6. P&W music subverts Biblical and liturgical texts during the Mass

The Roman Missal contains antiphons for the Entrance and Communion which are normally biblical texts. The Roman Gradual, which is still the Church’s only official source of music for Mass, contains antiphons for the Offertory as well as for the Interlectionary Chants. These together are known as the Proper of the Mass. The Missal and Gradual also contain official texts for the Ordinary of the Mass, for the Kyrie, Gloria, Creed, Sanctus and Agnus Dei.

P&W bypasses the first and preferred option that the Church’s liturgical law mandates for music at Mass, namely the Proper and Ordinary of the Mass as contained in the Church’s liturgical and musical books. It substitutes hymns, which have never been part of the Roman Mass, or paraphrases or re-workings of the Ordinary. If a biblical text is used, it often has little or nothing to do with the texts appointed by the Church in the Missal or Gradual.

In doing so, P&W sets up a situation in which people do not sing the Mass (i.e., the texts contained in the Missal and Gradual), but they sing at Mass songs chosen by the impoverished criterion that those songs “kind of go along with the readings or the theme of the day.” P&W divorces the music of the Mass from the Mass and substitutes in its place texts that are not or only barely Biblical or liturgical.

7. P&W music assumes that there can be a core of orthodox Catholic teaching independent of the Church’s liturgical law and tradition

Many P&W proponents assume that, as long as they continue to believe in what the Church teaches in the Catechism about faith and morals, that the liturgy can be adapted to how they think such a teaching should be incarnate in song. There are some who would never think of denying an article of the Creed or promoting immoral actions condemned by the Magisterium. But the same proponents see the liturgy as another sphere. Any appeal to liturgical law or tradition is rejected according to the principles of relevance and active participation of youth.

Orthodoxy is then separated from Orthopraxis, right belief is separated from right worship. The Church’s power to speak on faith and morals is upheld even as the Church’s power to safeguard the liturgy through rubrics, laws and traditions is dismissed as man-made legalism. In doing so, P&W promotes an attitude of passive, or even sometimes active, resistance to the hierarchy’s duty to safeguard the sacral character of the rites of the Church. The impression is created that there is such a thing as right belief, but that the idea of right worship is contrary to the Spirit of the Gospel.

This creates problems of communion between priests and their people when a priest attempts to reform the liturgy in any given place to bring it into line with the Church’s liturgical law and tradition.

8. P&W music consciously manipulates the emotions so as to produce a catharsis seen as necessary for spiritual conversion

Conversion is seen principally as a dramatic emotional event accompanied by strong feelings. Recognizing that music can stimulate feelings, P&W seeks to produce liturgical events which will bring out the feelings that could in turn bring about the emotional catharsis seen as necessary to conversion. The way the liturgy is planned and the music developed is done so with an eye to aiding this conversion process.

Yet, this is not what conversion really is. Conversion is the formation of the conscience under the grace of the Holy Spirit to inform the intellect and strengthen the will to live the supernatural life of the virtues in union with Christ. Although emotions are involved in the life-long pilgrimage of conversion, their deliberate manipulation, even for an ostensible good end, is abusive. It sees the human subject not as ready for the response to a divine call, but as something to be primed for an experience. In reality, the life of grace brought about by conversion is not an experience at the level of the emotions, but a movement of the soul over and above those emotions.

9. P&W music confuses transcendence with feeling.

The deliberate manipulation of the emotions by P&W often produces an excess of sentiment. The very strength of that feeling can induce some to think that such an event is the work of the transcendent God in them. Musical forms which truly are transcendent, in that they disengage from the emotional and bring the person above their emotions, such as Gregorian chant, are rejected because they do not necessarily cause an emotional event, which is seen as proof of divine action.

The constant spiritual tradition of the Church has taught to distrust feelings and to prize the transcendent holiness of God. It also teaches that human manipulation of other people’s intellects and wills is a violation against the freedom of the human person. When done in the name of God, it is also a violation of God’s sovereignty over the intellect and will of man, as it replaces the free action of God in the soul with a gimmick to make that action in theory possible.

10. P&W music denies the force of liturgical and musical law in the Church in favour of arbitrary and individualist interpretations of worship

P&W, in making relevance and a reduced notion of participation the fundamental principles for engineering liturgical/emotional events geared towards emotional catharsis taken for conversion, ignores liturgical and musical law in the Church when it contradicts its goal. Often the greatest proponents of P&W have never read the pertinent documents of the Church’s Magisterium about liturgy and music, or they read them within a hermeneutic of rupture.

Liturgical and musical law seeks to safeguard the unity, purity and clarity of the Church’s corporate worship. P&W offers other criteria for how the Church should worship. First, it subsumes true liturgical worship under the rubric of praise. Second, those who are in charge of the praise often engineer the rites and music according to principles alien to those that govern the Church’s liturgical and musical law. Third, the opinion of individuals, small groups and committees, often uninformed by a wider theological, liturgical and musical education, is preferred to the Church’s theological, liturgical and musical heritage which is found in the Church’s documents and the Missal and Gradual.

11. P&W music prizes immediacy of comprehension and artistic ease over the many-layered meaning of the liturgy and artistic excellence.

P&W prefers simple music that anyone can understand or participate in easily. It also prefers what can be sung or played with a minimum of practice, instruction, or talent. Its levels out the many-layered meaning of the liturgy to that which is most readily accessible, and denies access to the infinite riches in the Church’s liturgical life.

A constant diet of P&W throughout the liturgical year separates people from the Church’s actual liturgical prayer as found in the Missal and Gradual. It also denies them access to the art form produced by the Church herself, Gregorian chant, and to the transcendence to which it points. It also gives the impression that the Church is not serious about serious music. The idea of excellence in liturgical motion, sound, and sight and that the Church is a patron of the highest forms of such expression, is dismissed in favour of what is easiest. In doing so, P&W does not inspire youth and older people to plumb the riches of the Roman liturgy and music.

That is a lot to take in, I know. I am also sure that many of my P&W loving friends will take issue with some of what I have written here. But it is important that those involved in the Church’s ministry remember the following:

1. The Church’s musical and liturgical tradition is an integral part of worship, and not a fancy addition.

2. While Praise is a high form of individual and small group prayer, it is not Worship as the Church understands the corporate public prayer of the Liturgy.

3. Worship is not principally something that we do: it is the self-offering of Jesus Christ to the Father in the Holy Spirit, the fruits of which are received in Holy Communion. Worship is Sacrifice and Sacrament, not Praise.

4. Relevance is irrelevant to a liturgy which seeks to bring man outside of space and time to the Eternal.

5. Participation in the liturgy is principally interior, by the union of the soul with the Christ who celebrates the liturgy. Any externalizations of that interior participation are meaningless unless that interior participation is there.

6. The Church’s treasury of sacred music is not the province of one social-economic, age, cultural, or even religious group. It is the common patrimony of humanity and history.

7. The Church must sing the Mass, i.e., the biblical and liturgical texts contained in the Missal and Gradual, and not sing at Mass man-made songs, if it is to be the corporate Worship of the Church and not just Praise designed by a select group of people.

8. Orthodox Catholic teaching on faith and morals must always be accompanied by respect for the Church’s liturgical and musical teaching and laws.

9. The deliberate intention to manipulate human emotions to produce a religious effect is abusive, insincere, and disrespectful of God’s power to bring about conversion in the hearts of man.

10. While music does affect the emotions, sacred music must always be careful to prefer the transcendent holiness of God over the immanent emotional needs of man.

11. The Church’s treasury of sacred music inspires and requires the highest attention to artistic excellence. It is also an unfathomable gift to the Church, and must be presented to the faithful so that they may enjoy that rich gift.

Do I think that P&W has a place in the life of the Church? Of course I do. It is praise, it is prayer, it does get people lifting their minds and hearts to God. There is obviously a place for that in the Church. But that is not Worship, and the communal prayer of the liturgy, by which God unites Himself with us, must be allowed to be itself. We should not be so cynical as to think that our Catholic people are too young (or old), too stupid (or overly-educated), and too spiritually weak (or indifferent) to pray the Church’s liturgy as it is indicated in the Missal and Gradual. The music of the Church’s tradition is the Church’s own gift to mankind. Let’s pray the Mass, let’s sing the Mass as worship. Then our praise will be worthy of the Spirit’s breath, because Christ through His Mystical Body will sing the Father’s praise in us.

105 Replies to “Why Praise and Worship Music is Praise, But Not Worship”

  1. You make some valid points Father, but the condescending tone in which they are offered overpowers your message.

    "I yelled from the back pew, “No, sorry, Father, I’m a Catholic, I don’t do that kind of thing,”."

    To frame your position from this type of vantage point can only serve to harden many of the hearts you are trying to speak to.

    Do you think that people are "too young (or old), too stupid (or overly-educated), and too spiritually weak (or indifferent)" to understand your opinion without such a wrapping?

    We miss you, and wish you would come home to South Carolina soon – we need you here.

    Submitted with respect and love,

    Chris Caudle
    St. Peter Catholic Church
    Beaufort SC

  2. Thank you for this:
    "The deliberate intention to manipulate human emotions to produce a religious effect is abusive, insincere, and disrespectful of God’s power to bring about conversion in the hearts of man."
    Abusive… yes.

  3. Mr. Caudle, I am compelled to disagree with your assessment of Father's article. I didn't read any condescension in what he said.

    The story about his response to the priest was not a mark of condescension. Neither, dare I say, was it made in an attempt to "speak to" (in the sense of reaching out to them) the priest and others. It was a response to an invitation to partake in a grave liturgical abuse.

    Kevin J. Symonds
    De Pere, WI.

  4. Dead on. Right on every account. Please make sure that this remains perpetually available on the internet, as it will be a great reference for the future. I especially appreciate your observation that P&W splits the Church and divides the people against their pastor, should he try to bring them, as is his responsibility, into the full liturgical life of the Roman Church.

    A Seminarian

  5. Dear Chris,
    Good to see you on here, and please give my best to your family! Remember that the quote you pick out as being condescending, I was 16 years old when I said that! I certainly would not now!

  6. Hi Father!

    I only pulled out that quote because to me, it framed the tone of the rest of your article – which I acknowledge has some (many) very valid points.

    I think it is important to consider that a great many Catholics who embrace 'Praise and Worship' music at Mass are blissfully unaware of any liturgical conflicts – not from any desire to be in conflict with the Church, or to wrestle the Liturgy away from Tradition and into modernity – but more from a lack of understanding of the importance of that Tradition.

    To bridge that gap will take more of a gentle hand than a swinging 2×4.

    I do enjoy your blogs, and gain much from them – Prescott and I will be in Rome next week – would love to see you!


  7. Dear Fr. Smith, thank you for your authoritative article. Most of what you have written concerning your personal experiences resonates with me.

    You wrote: "Of all of my friends…, not one of them is a practicing Catholic anymore."

    Similarly so for me. In the mid 1980s we, too, were routinely invited around the altar and, sad to say, I helped lead the P&W music. It was all so nice, so warm and fuzzy and me-centred… and awkward. One daren't mention the "R" word. Mind you, I had little idea in those early years of my conversion that the rubrics actually mattered, so poor was the catechesis. Liturgical abuse was the norm.

    Of an RCIA group of 15 people from that time and place, I am the only one who has remained Catholic. Were it not for the faithful witness of a monsignor, my choir and the good parishioners at my next parish who were solid Catholics, I would likely have drifted away long ago.

    Fast forward two decades or so. I happened to be singing at my first parish again, now under the pastorship of a solid monsignor who was sent in after a scandal rocked the parish, a scandal that was probably necessary in order for them to be shaken out of their 1970s liberal religion. He asked me to help him provide a course correction and to move slowly. On one occasion, a fellow thanked us for presenting good music appropriate for the liturgy. Then, almost on his heels, a gal who belonged to the parish when I was helping with the P&W music in the 1980s proceeded to chide me by questioning where my energy and enthusiasm had gone. Why was I doing dusty old hymns? She wanted something "dancey", as she put it, like the "good l' days". My response was that I remained entirely enthusiastic, but that I had grown up and my convictions about liturgical music had matured to better reflect the rubrics. I think she would have had a fit if she knew I, as so directed, was moving the parish toward plainchant, which I did introduce on major feast days.

  8. Fr. Smith thank you for your original posting. It is interesting that you mention boomers as being such an integral part of the P&W group. It seems that they have not moved beyond what they thought was relevant to them as teenagers during that uncertain time of the sixties and seventies. The assumption traveling with them is that what was relevant in the sixties and seventies to them is now relevant to young people today. However, relevance is a loaded word. So much of p&w music is "feel good" music which, alas, is often not well crafted. That can be found on any radio station or internet station and is usually performed stylistically and musically better than what is performed in church. What is forgotten is that liturgy by definition means "work" not laid back lounge music or environment masquerading as liturgy. As I see it, so much of what is promoted as worship (worth-ship and liturgy) is an unfortunate result of educational failure. In other words, the church is not succeeding in educating members of what is done at mass, how it is done, why it is done and why it is important. I look out on many Sundays and see so many congregants/assembly members are totally disengaged: "ears have they and hear not; eyes have they and see not; tongues have they and speak (sing not)". In other words, really not fully there. Additionally, immense dilution has taken place. For example, we no longer have numinous, instead we have environment. The two are not the same. Numinous is "filled with a sense of divinity, of the holy". Atmosphere is an "aggregate of social and cultural conditions". The two are not the same. Other examples abound. The church has a tremendously huge job to do in reversing the trend in so many parishes and regaining what has been lost! In other words, reform of the reform. Again, unfortunately, not being satisfied with a reductionist approach to liturgical celebration and its related arts is often misconstrued as arrogance.

  9. What an outstanding post! Talk about hitting the nail on the head! Boy, this sure did it. It expressed things I have been thinking for years, but couldn't find just the right words to express it. Thanks and God bless! 🙂

  10. Another irony is that P&W (and hymnody in general) does not come CLOSE to using the breadth of Biblical material exposed in Propers chants.

    So it's "narrow-banding"–almost like "proof-texting" music, which is not good for anyone.

  11. Single handedly the best article I've read on "Praise and Worship" music in Mass…..I will most certainly direct as many as possible to it.

  12. Fr. Smith, your first mistake was leaving the
    Orthodox Church. It alone has maintained the
    true faith.

    It has never, ever permitted the liturgy to become an object of scorn, ridicule, and the butt of jokes.

  13. Amen, Father!
    As a priest in his mid-30's I had similar experiences at highschool and college retreats. (I once had the horror of being sent to a parish one weekend for a Life Teen Mass when I was a deacon.) The music and seemingly concomittant abuse of rubrics caused me anguish.
    Ironically, I now have some sentimental attraction to some P&W tunes. But, I could never convince myself emotionally or intellectually that such music belongs in a Mass. Chanting the antiphons and Mass texts is the way to go. Tradtional hymns of doctrinal value are suitable if necessary. (For example, seasonal Marian hymns at the end of Mass.) But, let's sing the Mass, not merely at Mass.

  14. If you had followed up on Life Teen, you would know that they have corrected the errors illustrated here back in 2004. Those parishes who haven't (and there are some), are not in line with the Vatican's rules, and therefore Life Teen's.

  15. And PS, I'm sorry to hear that none of your Life Teen friends are practicing Catholics anymore. However, please do not assume that that is true of every person who just so happens to enjoy a guitar at Mass. I am an alumna of a Life Teen program, as well as P&W-friendly Franciscan University of Steubenville, and the non-practicing Catholics are the vast minority of my group of friends. It may not be y'alls preference, and that's fine, but do not assume we are all heretics. Do some charismatics ignore the Liturgical rules? Absolutely. But, it is possible to do it right, even if it is not something you have personally witnessed.

  16. Britt brings out a very good point that must be affirmed, that there are those who have continued in the faith and are trying to follow the rubrics. But, music at Mass is still not a matter of preference and style, that's the rub!

  17. "Fr. Smith, your first mistake was leaving the
    Orthodox Church. It alone has maintained the
    true faith.

    It has never, ever permitted the liturgy to become an object of scorn, ridicule, and the butt of jokes."

    The Western Church was happy to lend a hand to our Eastern brethren during a certain crisis concerning Sacred Images in the first millenium.

    The Western Church is now having it's own crisis around Sacred Music. Fancy helping out? Let's see what you're made of. 😉

  18. The Western Church was happy to lend a hand to our Eastern brethren during a certain crisis concerning Sacred Images in the first millenium.

    Lend a helping hand? The issue was a largely eastern one in origin with largely eastern bishops settling it, thank you very much, and in defining the Church's position too. That was in 787 AD. So, what have you done for us lately other than attempt to destroy the eastern liturgies of the uniates and replace them with Roman ones?

  19. I don't like the implication that anyone playing a piano during mass follows all the music rules, and that anyone playing a guitar automatically brakes them. That's simply not true. Also, not all churches that play guitar music during mass do other crazy things like bringing everyone up to the altar. That was an individual experience you had from one church.

    The style of which the music is played doesn't actually have anything to do with the words that are sung, nor does the style of music write a particular intention on anyone's heart. You could sing identical songs in praise and worship style that were sung as "regular" songs. Ever sung praise and worship style songs in Latin? I have! Maybe you need to visit Steubenville. 🙂

    It's the lyrics that are important, not the beat or the instruments used.

    There is a time that Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" was banned from mass because back then that was the "new beat" and the traditionalists only wanted Gregorian chant in mass.

    PS. I have tons of friends that were raised on Life Teen Masses and are hard core, NFP using, confession going, rule following Catholics. It's a new generation! 🙂

  20. Martin Luther defined the Mass as a sacrifice of praise. It is something we render to God. The Council of Trent solemnly defined against Luther that the Mass is a true sacrifice. The Mass is the re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Christ to His Father on Calvary in the Holy Spirit. The Mass is something that Jesus does, the Redemption, the fruits of which are shared with us in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Worship is not Praise, but Sacrifice and Sacrament. Worship is something that Jesus Christ brings about in us through His self-offering to the Father.

    A few points about this paragraph:

    1. I do not know what to make of the claim that "Worship is not Praise." Indeed, the root of the English word "worship" (worðscip) means to acknowledge the worth of something — i.e. to praise it. The whole way in which the article seeks to distinguish praise and worship seems to take a Humpty Dumpty approach to language: i.e., "'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.'" P&W music may or may not be inappropriate for the liturgy, but an invented distinction between "praise" and "worship" is not going to settle the issue.

    2. The term "sacrifice of praise" is not only Biblical (Hebrews 13:15), it also has clear precedent in the liturgical tradition in association with the Eucharist. In the Eastern Liturgy, just before the Anaphora, the deacon says, "Let us stand well, let us stand in awe, let us be attentive to off the holy oblation in peace," to which the people respond, "A mercy of peace, a sacrifice of praise."

    3. Luther most assuredly did not think that the Mass was something that we did for God. That the Lord's Supper is entirely something God does for us is central to his Eucharistic theology. Whatever the defects of that theology (and I think they are manifold), the Pelagianism that you seem to ascribe to him is not one of them.

  21. Dear Father,

    Thanks for the post, but I totally disagree. I was a Life Teen youth minister for 3 and a half years, and at no time did I ever feel the need to, or felt encouraged to, encourage a "cult" atmosphere. I know that P and W music is not for all occasions. However, neither is Latin High Mass. I saw my teens actively engage in their faith in a number of ways, some in the profound silence of Adoration, and other times at a work camp Mass where there was lively P&W music and holy water was sprinkled with a paint brush. To wholesale claim that P&W is somehow inherently bad is false. It also neglects a strong reaffirmation by contemporary musicians in recent years that musical texts should not just be "touchy-feely" but also based in Scripture and Tradition. Some of the best contemporary pieces I have ever heard took texts of songs Catholics use often and either changed the beat slightly, or added a contemporary refrain to them. Matt Maher does a beautiful rendition of "Tantum Ergo" like this, and I also know there are excellent arrangements of "Come Holy Ghost" and "Amazing Grace" to this effect. I actually found these most effective in my teaching, since it was a way to introduce my teens to the breadth and depth of the beauty of the Church's liturgy.

    Again, thanks for the post. I do think it's dangerous, however, to assume that just because there are some bad P&W songs (and there are) that the genre as a whole encourages something inherently "anti-Catholic."


  22. I too, used to attend Life Teen and go up to the altar when the priest called us teens up for the consecration. I was very uncomfortable and I wanted to kneel, so I eventually stopped and just stayed in my pew. I knew almost nothing about the faith back then. (I had no idea about the Real Presence.) By the grace of God, I learned the faith and am still Catholic today.

  23. "Lend a helping hand? The issue was a largely eastern one in origin with largely eastern bishops settling it, thank you very much, and in defining the Church's position too. That was in 787 AD. So, what have you done for us lately other than attempt to destroy the eastern liturgies of the uniates and replace them with Roman ones?"

    I didn't claim otherwise. What I said was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek response to a crass comment on your part.

    It seems like a poor excuse to come here and take a swipe at both Fr Smith and the Catholic Church in an attempt to laud it over us – and it was a rather clumsy effort, too.

    Whether you feel aggrieved at what the Catholic Church has done in the past is neither here nor there. My challenge to you (perhaps made a little too subtly) was whether you had anything constructive to add to the conversation – and in that you certainly did show what you were made of.


  24. Katie Smyser, you "totally disagree." That tells me volumes about your lack of understanding of the Faith and Litury. Another unfortunate fall-out from the Life Teen movement.

  25. Katie, I'd like to point out that no where does Father Smith condemn Praise and Worship Music….he says it is inappropriate for Mass. I would allow it nowhere near the Holy Sacrifice, for no other reason than there is a rich musical patrimony that we Catholics are blessed to have and which every pope since St. Pius X has sung the praises of, which every papal, curial, and other authoritative document has insisted be the primary music, and which fed the saints for a thousand years or more.

    I love a good cheeseburger, but when I can choose between the burger and a filet mignon, I'll have the filet at the primary meal of the day (the Holy Mass) and save the burger for a private lunch on my own (devotions, adoration, personal listening).

    Now a question for you (and others)….why is it that when we criticize having Praise and Worship at Mass, you take it as a shot of the starboard bow at the entire genre? It simply isn't appropriate for Mass. It isn't about taste, it isn't about personality, it isn't about it being "inspirational". None of those things matter. It is simply about the fact that other music is prescribed as preferable for Mass. That music isn't unavailable….it isn't difficult…there are even simple settings. I guess I don't understand the issue. There's no reason not to use and enjoy P&W in your own personal prayer life…there is just other music that is more appropriate for Mass.

  26. I don't like the implication that anyone playing a piano during mass follows all the music rules

    We agree. The instrument SHOULD be the pipe organ.

    The style of which the music is played doesn't actually have anything to do with the words that are sung, nor does the style of music write a particular intention on anyone's heart.

    Here we will disagree. Chant and high-end secular music (think Brahms, Beethoven, Prokofiev, even some Bernstein) have in common that the music illuminates the text.

    That particular feature does not apply to hymnody, which uses the same melody for three or four different verses (and texts.)

    As to 'style of music not [affecting] one's heart,' we again will disagree. For example, the music to Elvis' "Love Me Truly" is far different from the music to Elvis' "Jailhouse Rock." And the effect on one's heart is markedly different, too.


  27. I think also, and I made this comment on another post, that we need to consider the origins and purpose of P&W music. The beats used are similar if not outright the same as secular pop/rock which has the sole purpose of exciting your lower passions. The words do not so much matter, only the beat. Rock music also has the ability to effect certain body hormones (cf. Fr. Basil Nortz "Music and Morality") which can make it addictive.

    I had a student this past year who, while being in my Gregorian Chant schola, also played guitar for his PW Mass at home. When asked if he was addicted to it, he denied it. 5 minutes later in the discussion he said "I just love it and can't stop but don't know why!"

    Especially during the liturgy, the words and not the musical elements are the most important aspect. As I remember Fr. Kirby last Colloquium saying "Gregorian Chant is a vesture for the Word of God", and it has stuck with me ever since.

  28. Thank you Father for the article. Yes, the P&W music deserves a respect. And it will be respected if it is heard in the right places.

  29. An excellent post!

    My experience with LifeTeen (as a parent and observer) are similar to yours. I can count few of the youth I knew who still regularly attend Mass. But there are a few.

    I also appreciate the commentary. I, too, feel that eventually my musical taste grew up, and moved from "Glory and Praise" (and I am dating myself!) to something that I cannot readily access in my locale.

    It can be hard to convince people that just because a song is nice and has "great words" that it is not suitable for liturgy. Likewise, a judgement that a song is not suitable for liturgy does not mean I don't like the song!

    What I like or dislike is not relevant. The Mass is relevant and the Church tells us how it should be "done".

    I was told last week by our Catholic school principal that we had to make the Mass relevant for the kids. I just rolled my eyes and wondered how long he had till retirement.

  30. Matt, I just laughed out loud at your post. If P&W music is exciting your "lower passions," you need to leave your cell from time-to-time… Or turn on the TV.. Or see a shrink. That is beyond bizzare, and you have serious problems. haha.

  31. Thank you, Father, for a great explanation about why P&W music is destructive to the Mass as we know it. Now that I have discovered and am singing the propers, I love my Catholicism all the more. I too am a recovering P&W leader at Mass, and I deeply regret it. I'm selling my guitar this weekend. 😀

    Why do we insist on setting the bar so low for our kids? It's almost as if we're helping them to become ex-Catholics by age 25.

    I'll go even further and say P&W music has no business being played anywhere; even the local Catholic radio station plays it as filler. This video about four chords making up all pop songs could just as easily be about the Pablum that you hear on "K-Love" and its ilk (warning: language at the end).

  32. Lacy @ Catholic Icing said…

    "I don't like the implication that anyone playing a piano during mass follows all the music rules…" ???

    I played piano during Mass, and I absolutely didn't follow rules and tradition of the Church. The statement above clearly shows the level of understanding on liturgy of the people who follow P&W or their own tastes in music. Complete ignorance.

  33. Dear Fr. Smith,

    I loved this post! Many thanks! You have said quite simply and succinctly – and charitably, I might add – exactly what I have been trying to get my pastor to understand for the last year. I am the music director at a parish where we used to sing chant and sacred polyphony, but are now being asked to reduce our entire music program to contemporary music that only the congregation can sing to promote "full and active participation". If you don't mind, I may share this with him.

  34. Dear "Anonymous",

    I guess it depends on what you mean by Praise and Worship music…

    Christian Rock and regular Rock are identical except for the words, which are the least important part of that genre.

    As for the lower passions, the music is designed to whoop people into a frenzy. And even if you don't agree, there is no reason to act like a troll.

  35. I've had this praise and worship discussion with many other orthodox Catholics of a traditional leaning. We all agree that we like P&W but just don't "feel" that it's fitting during the Mass.

    Anecdotally, aside from those who later came to prefer traditional liturgy, the only LifeTeeners I know who are still practicing Catholics (few in number) are those who have gone on to perpetuate LifeTeen programs as young adults and as older adults.

    The problem I see is that many student leaders, musicians, and youth directors in this and similar programs seem to addicted to the ATTENTION. [1][2] And with employed liturgical musicians, asking for more traditional music is not only a perceived affront to their desire to express themselves and be seen doing it, but a potential threat to their income.

    [1] I helped out with LifeTeen catechesis at a parish last year but the liturgy made my heart hurt. One time a youth minister wore a crawfish costume into the sanctuary to give a loud announcement right after Communion. I hadn't even worked up the saliva to swallow the Eucharist yet when he started in with a fake New Orleans accent…

    [2] A college house mate of mine about six years ago claimed he stayed home for a year after high school graduation in part to help with his beloved LifeTeen program

  36. @stceolfrithtx: As a former P&W leader in the Catholic Church and out, I agree . . . the attention you get from it is addictive.

  37. Excellent post on P&W music. This is something I have tried and tried to get through to people over time and nobody will listen. They all accuse you of just going with personal opinion — and then they proceed to do what they want based on their own personal opinions.

    There is a blatant disregard for the Church teachings on sacred music by pastors, music directors, and parishioners alike that has to be curbed. If anyone has ideas, it would help, but so far showing Church documents hasn't worked. Will showing this article work?

  38. I would, for one, like to propose that Fr. Smith's article be submitted by CMAA to the USCCB/BCL (if there is still one) for approval as an informative set of guidelines forwarded to all diocesan liturgical commissions with a mandate to articulate music policies for communities that subscribe to a LifeTeen ethos.

  39. There is never any reason for rock drums to be present at or heard during Mass. Even if it's a regular Sunday morning Mass and those drums are sitting there looming, its just disturbing! Personally, I really enjoy popular music but I do not ever wish it to played at Mass. Just like I don't want that milquetoast Contemporary Christian stuff played either.

    The thing that makes rock music work is the struggle between lyrics which express a sense of longing and music that uplifts and redeems. With Christian rock, they try to redeem with both the words and the music and it just doesn't work. It's like the Resurrection without the Passion. It's all resurrection and therefore very Protestant.

    Now, if we're just going on the music and not the words, I can think of many popular rock songs that would be much better within a Mass. At least they would be somber in tone. I'm thinking something by Radiohead or even Depeche Mode or Pink Floyd might be good. Just because a "Christian" makes a song means nothing to its appropriateness in the Liturgy. Conversely, just because a song is made by a secular person, it doesn't mean its evil. While some may be designed to excite, many songs express suffering and because of that have brought me closer to my suffering Savior than any bull like "Lord I Lift Your Name on High" could ever do. To me, Jesus embodies a silent unimaginable power and mercy. If all you did is listen to these songs, you'd think God was a wimp.

    Lastly, approaching the Altar for reception of the Eucharist should NEVER be done to the beat of a drum. Weird!

  40. "Another irony is that P&W (and hymnody in general) does not come CLOSE to using the breadth of Biblical material exposed in Propers chants."

    This is not a valid statement regarding "hymnody in general." The office hymns are part of the Church's lectio divina, just as the propers are.

  41. Routley, schmoutley 🙂 I want the great doctors (and hymnographers) to smile: St. Ambrose, St. Ephrem, St. Peter Damian, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bernard, etc. etc. etc.

  42. "Matt Maher does a beautiful rendition of "Tantum Ergo" like this, and I also know there are excellent arrangements of "Come Holy Ghost" and "Amazing Grace" to this effect. I actually found these most effective in my teaching, since it was a way to introduce my teens to the breadth and depth of the beauty of the Church's liturgy. "

    You taught teens that Amazing Grace is theologically Catholic and demonstrates the breadth and depth of the beauty of the liturgy of the Catholic faith?

    Life Teen strikes again.

  43. Father, thank you for your post. I am a convert to Catholicism from evangelical Protestantism, and in the beginning, I really missed the praise and worship music from my old church. However, with time, I began to see how emotionally attached I was to it. I still like the music in some contexts, but not in the Mass. I began going to the Latin Mass a while ago and the difference between emotions and spirituality became more apparent to me. I like what you said about how P&W music can cause a person to mistake their emotions for a conversion – I think this happened to me, and I did not focus enough on following God's will, acquiring virtue, and repenting of sin. (not that I focus enough on those things now, but they seem more important now than they did before). I learned a lot from your post, thank you 🙂

  44. I say this as a cradle Catholic who once willingly attended LifeTeen / rock band Masses, your average guitar / folk early morning Mass as well as the "performance" Mass where the musician may as well have had a tip jar on the grand piano.

    Several years of hearing a relevantly celebrated Novus Ordo, with Gregorian Chant (in Latin and English) have brought me to the following conclusions:

    Contemporary refrains do not draw the mind toward the transcendent. They keep it strictly confined to the here and now, which is the last thing we should strive for in Holy Mass. We pray the Mass to encounter God.

    Gregorian Chant was handed down to us through the ages – it has its origins in the pre-Christ Jewish tradition – and thus we should take what Holy Mother Church gives us.

    How much would it hurt to just follow what's in the liturgical books? Perhaps it might work if we, the faithful and the priests, prayed Mass in the way the Church intended?

    Most people do not know this – I did not up until a few years ago – but the Church at no point has "preferred" hymns (particularly vernacular hymns) in place of the opening psalm or the offertory/communion/postcommunion chants. Even Vatican II did not stipulate or suggest replacing the psalms and chants in the liturgical books with hymns.

    Praise and worship music is completely fine for the parish hall. It does not belong in Holy Mass.

  45. If P&W music is exciting your "lower passions," you need to leave your cell from time-to-time

    It is common knowledge that 'back-beat' accents are far more sensual than 1-3 (of 4). Perhaps you should know something about music and its effects before you run flap.

  46. This is not a valid statement regarding "hymnody in general." The office hymns are part of the Church's lectio divina, just as the propers are.

    Thanks for reminding me that precision is demanded in posting.

    Of course, you DID notice that the context of the entire thread AND the combox was "hymns at Mass", not "office hymns," right? Or did you?

  47. It's still not a valid statement regarding "hymnody in general." People sing office hymns at Mass all the time. These hymns can be Biblically rich texts:

    Savior of the Nations, Come (St. Ambrose)
    Adoro Te Devote (St. Thomas Aquinas)

    There are many others that are rich meditations on Scripture. At the Lamb's High Feast, for example, and O Sons and Daughters. Others are nearly as old as the Church itself, such as O Radiant Light.

    The sequences are Biblically rich hymns as well.

    I understand and sympathize with the project of promoting the use of propers at Mass. But the argument that all hymns are bad is simply inaccurate.

  48. I understand and sympathize with the project of promoting the use of propers at Mass.


    FYI, I use Adoro Te–not to mention Ave Verum, and the Marian hymns (per season) all the time as voluntary hymns. AFTER we sing the Proper.

  49. There's a lot of baby being thrown out with the bathwater here. Almost all of these criticisms of P&W done badly could be made of more "traditional" music when it's done badly as well. I can tell you lots of stories of lapsed Catholics who came from "traditional" families and lot's of converts and reverts that found their path to Christ through P&W.

    As a professional Church minister (musician, theology teacher, youth minister, w/ a masters degree in theology) I've always found it best to help people learn to praise and/or worship in a variety of ways. That includes more modern, charismatic styles (which is actually in someways a recovery of early church and ancient Jewish worship) and the traditional hymns and chants that carried the prayers of the church through the dark ages. There is no one musical/liturgical style that trumps all others although some certainly deserve a certain respect and even preference given their role in liturgical history.

    And not to criticize you as a teenager too much here (but since you seem to still uphold that story as an exemplary act, I'll proceed): to stand apart from the rest of the worshiping community and claim "I'm a real Catholic" is about the least Catholic thing you can do. Moreover, why you would pray the rosary when you should be participating in mass is beyond me. Not that I'm saying we should always go with the crowd but its not like they were consecrating pizza and kool aid, they were gathering around the altar. The mass is about the "body of Christ." That means we not only receive it from the altar, but we embody it in our community (read 1 Corinthians, and Vatican II for that matter, while your at it, how about Augustine's City of God, this is nothing new.)

    now, I encounter this tension between fidelity to the rubrics and fidelity to my community all the time when I'm at a church that does not kneel during the consecration. I would rather kneel (as is the norm) but the Church allows for some exceptions and I can be just as reverent standing if I work at it. Moreover, it speaks powerfully to all stand in unison rather than draw attention to myself during the time in the mass when we should be focusing on worshiping as a community and participating in the prayer of the sacrifice. The middle of mass is not the place for me to speak my dissent, its time to worship with my brothers and sisters. I miss something of Christ's sacrifice in the mass if I don't see His body all around me. While the mass is in some sense something "Christ does" it's not as if we are mere spectators. We have a real role to play. Christ doesn't need the mass, we do.

    in closing, chant? fine. p&w? fine. It shouldn't' be either/or, it should be both/and. Lets all learn to worship/praise etc. in a variety of ways so that we can better receive and be the body of Christ.

    so rather than criticizing another way of worshiping and saying "you must do it this way" (which btw is not what the Church teaches) why not explore it and try to learn from it? Obviously there is something of God to be found there if people find fruit through it (I learned that little lesson from a dude named Jesus). So lets learn what we can from one another and teach what we can and may we all learn to worship together.

    sorry if this was a little snarky This is how families work out their issues, right? 😉
    Peace and love to all. to God be the praise.

  50. Saundra,

    have you ever gone to a mass in a an African community? I think your comments about drums "NEVER" being appropriate to the Eucharist are a bit narrow minded. There are many ways to worship. Rather than criticize, why do we not try to learn to see the beauty that others have found?

  51. Not all the beauty is appropriate for the Mass.

    The Mass doesn't belong to us. It is given from Christ through the Church. Is it my taste in certain beauty that decides what is sacred?

  52. @Anonymous June 5, 2011 1:41 PM

    I know there are many musicians here have tried contemporary music, but found better, authentic liturgical music that is sacred, not secular, so one can experience God as Holy, so we can live our life holy as He asks us to do. I've tried contemporary music myself, I wish I can find something to learn from contemporary music musically, spiritually. If we insists on following one's taste in music for the Holy Mass, not following the Church's instruction that is expressed in Her tradition, we will not be worshiping God, we are worshiping ourselves and our pride, no matter what you say and sing with your lips.

  53. To Anonymous who said:
    "I would rather kneel (as is the norm) but the Church allows for some exceptions and I can be just as reverent standing if I work at it."

    While I understand your desire not to cause confusion, the practice you describe is a grave abuse. It is understandable if the kneelers are being repaired (or someone has bad knees) and for a few weeks you may have to stand (genuflecting at the time of the consecration itself according to the rubrics). But, the Church does not envision this practice you describe as legitimate. Fidelity to an agenda driven pastor, is not fidelity to the Church of Christ.
    The local bishop and CDW in Rome should be informed of this abuse.

    (PS reread Sacrosanctum Concilium to clear up confusion about how the Mass is the work of Christ – not just "in some sense.")

  54. The larger issue here is that the P&W folk and even those who sing traditional hymns at Mass because they like them are showing the symptoms of Emotivism. Objective criteria are not of importance. The directives of the Church are cast aside because of personal preference.
    Then, a pseudo-objectivism is proposed based on sociological fact, namely, hymns are presently being used at Mass, so we must accept all types of music. (However, P&W folk just don't seem to get it. They do not read the documents of the Church or show disdain for them.) The whole issue should be, not should P&W be used at Mass, but should personal preference dictate which Mass Catholic attend. This concept is utterly Protestant and alien to Catholicism.
    The hymn culture arose during the liturgical movement to give the laity something to sing while the priest offered Low Mass. It stuck around after 1969 Missal reforms as an wicked untraditional growth.

    Keep P&W (and all hymns) out of Mass. Leave it in your private devotions.

  55. Alas, the conflict runs deep. 

    Praise be to God, I have been raised amidst sound doctrine.  I attribute this mostly to my parents and partially to my parish priests.  For context purposes, I have been a Catholic all my life and have never stopped going to mass.  Fr. upon reading your article, I found conflict with it.  The problems you describe I see and meet you fully there, however, I don't see:
    1) How P&W music in mass is, across the board, the culprit and
    2) How these issues are only found in P&W music

    This post is long, for I have many thoughts on the matter. For this reason, here is a summary of what I am saying below.  However, I keep the rest included because I want to explain myself fully.  The next paragraph will give you my thesis on the matter, and the rest will explain it.

    –There are errors in modern practice of liturgical music, both in the practice of P&W music and elsewhere, and I don't see how the blame can be placed upon P&W music while neglecting to note the selfsame error exhibited in other musics within the mass.  This is a complex issue, and misplaced blame can cause the truth to go unnoticed.  I have great desire to help bring liturgical music towards the ideal.  I write because I don't think P&W music is necessarily opposed to the journey towards the ideal.
    I did not know until I took a sacred music history class this past semester that the propers of the mass were prescribed for the Novus Ordo mass.  I knew about these mass parts only from singing them in choirs for performance purposes.  I have long sung in my home-parish choir, and we sing the common 4 hymn mass with occasional communion meditations or sequences.  Father, would you think this is a fine form of the mass?  You mention it not at all in your article, yet it follows many of the same errors you outline as problems with P&W.
    These errors are:
    1. P&W music assumes that praise is worship.
    This remains ambiguous for me.  I don't see how worship is not praise.  I'm glad you have influenced me to consider what this means.  Clearly they are different, but I don't think as different as you say.  I haven't given much time and thought into the matter, but i would think of the relationship between worship and praise as similar to that between dogma and doctrine.  They are clearly distinct and should not be confused with one another, but dogma is most assuredly doctrine, though not all doctrines are dogma.  I think there is praise within worship, though praise is not always worship.  What do you think about this view?

    2. P&W music assumes that worship is principally something we do.
    I'll see you here.  This is a common misunderstanding.  I don't think this perspective is married to the P&W, but, rather, it's part of a larger problem in how the faithful understand (or misunderstand) the liturgy.  I agree that most of the faithful at masses with P&W music don't understand the great import of sacred music, but I see no difference at novus ordo masses at my home parish where we sing a combination of modern and old hymns and ordinaries with organ & piano.  Can you show me how P&W is the culprit?

  56. 3. P&W music assumes as its first principle relevance.
    When I'm at university, I sing P&W music at mass.  Never do I consider the relevance of the music to the people.  I consider the relevance of the music to the readings or the feast (such as Marian feast or the like), but not to the people.  Being at a university, we have a good portion of young people at mass (daily and Sunday), but this music is for God, for His liturgy and, through his liturgy, for His people, old and young.  On the same note, I've sung at non-P&W music masses where the choir and choir director's perspective seems to be geared towards engaging the people to worship.  I see how error could be found in either of these examples, when compared to the ideal, but how is the P&W accompanied mass any worse?

    4. P&W music assumes as its second principle the active participation of a certain age group
    Yes, sometimes, but it's not central to the practice of using it.

    5. P&W music self-consciously divides the Church into age and taste groups.
    It contributes to the division of 'taste' groups, but so does having both Tridentine and Novus Ordo masses at the same parish.  Choice leads into preference.  The fact that the Holy See has given the faithful choices in how the mass may be practiced seems to me to say that having different forms of the same mass isn't all bad.  I'm quite uncertain on this topic.  Thoughts?

    6. P&W music subverts Biblical and liturgical texts during the Mass.
    As I mentioned earlier, I didn't know of mass propers before learning about them in class.  They were entirely foreign to me.  The vast majority of the masses I have attended in my life, particularly in my younger years, were not P&W masses, yet we ignored the propers.  On the flipside, some recent P&W masses I have participated in sing the propers before or instead of hymns.  Again, I completely agree that the subversion of Biblical and liturgical texts is both prevalent and a problem, but I don't agree that P&W is it be blamed.

    7. P&W music assumes that there can be a core of orthodox Catholic teaching independent of the Church’s liturgical law and tradition.
    When I practice P&W music I have no goal in mind opposing the decrees of the Church.  I don't try to change the liturgy.  Some people do change it, as you say, both those that sing P&W music in mass and those that don't.  Yes, I meet you at the problem, but I do not see how P&W is to blame.

    8. P&W music consciously manipulates the emotions so as to produce a catharsis seen as necessary for spiritual conversion.
    I don't want to be wordy, as I'm wont to do.  Again, some do this, but it's not central to the practice.

  57. 9. P&W music confuses transcendence with feeling.
    I reply as I did to #8.

    10. P&W music denies the force of liturgical and musical law in the Church in favor of arbitrary and individualist interpretations of worship
    I am but a beginner in my study of liturgical and musical law. From what I have studied, I think that P&W has become a sort of red herring. I don't mean this disrespectfully, as I recognize it's use may be unintentional. I say this because there are symptoms for the errors in the faithful (we are human; we err), and P&W draws attention because it's blatantly different on the outside. It uses different instruments and style (is sometimes uses instruments and styles inappropriate for mass). These differences make it noticeable. Sometimes these differences are accompanied by blatant abuses, which make it all the more noticeable. However, the deeper liturgical errors seem to run deeper, which is why I see it across the board in mass. Only at particularly Orthodox masses do I hear the propers.

    11. P&W music prizes immediacy of comprehension and artistic ease over the many-layered meaning of the liturgy and artistic excellence.
    I wish not to submit myself to redundancy. My point is that I see errors in modern practice of liturgical music, both in the practice of P&W music and elsewhere, and I don't see how the blame can be placed upon P&W music while neglecting to note the selfsame errors exhibited in the practice of other musics and their absence in some forms of P&W. This is a complex issue, and misplaced blame can cause the truth to go unnoticed.

    In Pax CHRISTI,

  58. While I have never been a big fan of the P&W genre, and where I agree with SOME of the thoughts (not all) of Fr. Smith in this article, some of the comments and some of the posts that have followed here are unusually diverse, some defensive, some affirming, some cruel, very, very interesting.

    Fr. Smith’s distinctions between “praise” and “worship” I find very interesting, since I think many of the definitions that he provides here are unique to him and others, but not universal, even among liturgists of the highest order. “Praise” is most definetly an aspect of worship, of liturgical celebration, so I find these narrow definitions interesting. I believe (and others do as well) that liturgical music in the most appropriate manifestations has an element of praise. But I guess this is mostly an argument of semantics.

    Other interesting comments. Fr. Smith correctly asserts that the Mass is the prayer of Jesus to the Father, we also most certainly are enjoined to Christ in this prayer of, yes, “praise” and glorification of God. While I can certainly agree with points 3 and 4, I do not necessarily agree that folks who embrace P&W are intentionally trying to divide the church into age and taste groups. I have come to know many folks in this particular arena, and I believe their intentions to be anything but that. I do agree however, that the result is what Fr. Smith says. But I do not believe it to be intentional at all. I attribute it to being a bit naïve and perhaps not conscious about the effects. 6, and 7 – well yes, but perhaps not has across the board as Fr. Smith asserts. 8 – I agree wholeheartedly. 9 – confusing transcendence with emotions – well, that does happen, but I do believe that they truly do not always see this. This often comes across because it can be seen as a reaction to a church and liturgy that often wants to reject part and parcel, the aspect of emotion, of true “affect.”

    I just have to pause here and say that some of these accusations that Fr. Smith makes are pretty judgmental in terms of the intentions of folks who utilize and promote the P&W philosophy. Again, I am not a fan of P&W, believe me, but I find it a bit much to presume to know what is in the hearts of such folks, and to brush them with a single brush.

    There is much to agree with here in this piece by Fr. Smith. I have had my difficulties with P&W music, but not with the people themselves who embrace this genre and approach. I believe these are great folk, who are responding to the love of God in their lives in a way that is often pure in its intention, regardless of the effects it may have in the end.

  59. My objections are in many circumstances, beyond what is addressed here in this letter. These are my concerns (I suspect many here will disagree with some of my conclusions):

    1 – A predominant amount of the P&W repertoire is in first person, emphasizing what I would refer to us as “Jesus and me” piety. Liturgy is a communal event, and while every single liturgical and sung biblical text does not have to always include “we”, “us” and “our” – the P&W music is greatly wanting in this regard.

    2 – The P&W music and its “theology” and “piety” tends to be biblically fundamentalist in its understanding, over simplistic and naïve in its textual richness, with a general absence of metaphorical language and imagery.

    3 – P&W music really does not seem to be concerned with liturgical action and ritual units. For just a few examples, it is hardly any repertoire that is intended for ritual actions of sprinkling, incense – no sense of acclamation or litany – no liturgical understanding of intercession. There is not much music (if any) that speaks to the sacramental celebrations of our liturgical life.

    4 – Absence of Lament. Here is where I am critical of the “praise” emphasis – praise in this music and style seems to underline almost everything, with an amazing absence of music that speaks to “lament” and crying out to God (part of our biblical, and yes, liturgical tradition going back to our Jewish roots).

    5 – Often, and this is sometimes because of the compositional style and structure of much of this music.. too much emphasis is on the “band,” and as sometimes, the music has an intrinsic leaning toward emphasizing the personality of the leader/group, which of course, is very problematic, often reducing the assembly unintentionally, to becoming observers and admirers. It is very difficult, if not downright impossible, to present this music with simple musical resources (a cappella music seems to be anathema to this genre), and the ministry of “the sound system” seems to dominate, rather than the natural voice of a musically untrained assembly (which is desired) raising their hearts in sung prayer.

  60. 6 – P&W seems to really be overly centered in atonement theology, an outgrowth of its frequent biblical fundamentalism. This being the case, the texts often are guilt and shame based, and often ignoring the fact that we are also God’s “great work of art.” Very centered in Pauline spirituality, and a very narrow one at that.

    7 – This being the case, there seems to be a complete rejection (sometimes intentional) of Catholic Social Teaching, and the elements of discipleship that are not only at the roots of our Catholicism, but our biblical tradition but also the missionary aspect of the liturgy, proclaimed powerfully in our liturgical seasons and in the lectionary.

    8 – Much of the P&W repertoire is actually very difficult to sing, with complicated rhythmic elements and range in terms of tessitura and logical voice leading.

    9 – The publication of P&W hymnals and songbooks (under the guise of “youth ministry” resources) represent an extreme poverty of musical styles and genres. Chant and treasured hymns of the tradition are all but absent, with a few pathetic entries.

    10 – Again, the intention of being music to serve teens and young people, actually (not intentionally) insults and keeps young people (and the adults who do this music who often need to “grow up” themselves, both liturgically and spiritually), in a place of spiritual adolescence and at times, religious infancy. The texts and the naïve musical approaches covertly keeps worshippers in a place of theological illiteracy. Read through the texts of such books (OCP’s very popular “Spirit and Song;” World Library’s “Voices As One,” and GIA’s “Cross Generation) and one can see the lack of the richness and depths of our spiritual ethos.

    I have to say, that often this music HAS served as a basic place of evangelization and coming to faith for young people and others, and that certainly has merit. But it really does not take the young person any further than that initial spark and moment of conversion, and often does so (again, not always intentionally) through a subtle manipulation of emotions.

    These are some of my objections. But I do believe that there are gems here and there that have truly been responses to the Spirit in the lives of those who create this music. The issue, which Fr. Smith does seem to imply, is discernment, making careful choices between the wheat and chaff, and knowing where and where it does not belong. Tough stuff. Tough to navigate through the issues here.

  61. Britt, I think this shows a definite chasm between the experience of some of us growing up. I had a very similar experience to Father as a teenager (in fact, I very well could have been the teen in the pew saying that exact same thing back to the priest, and then going Orthodox). I, too, am a near-lone ranger when it comes to Catholics from my high school class who still practice regularly (out of a First Communion class of 40+ and a Confirmation class of about 30). I think there is a HUGE difference in experience of P&W between those of us who grew up in the 90s in the south and rural midwest as opposed to those who grew up in areas with more coastal influence, or more influence from Steubenville. I also think there is a major gender and personality distinction to be made as well (very few males or introverts are naturally attracted to the emotional nature of P&W music), but I won't attempt to attack that here.

    In my experience, P&W was a phenomenon that was completely Protestant, and brought in by folks who had no understanding of Catholic theology whatsoever in an attempt to make the Mass relevant. There was a definite attempt to mimic the styles of our Evangelical and Baptist friends. The music was straight out of the Protestant hits: we sang "Awesome God" as an entrance song and "Thy Word" for Communion. And we were not being taught Catholic theology outside of Mass, either.

    So, from our perspective, P&W is an attempt to baptize (or, I suppose more appropriately, confirm or chrismate) a fundamentally Protestant style of music. When Catholics started trying to do it at Mass, we couldn't do it as well as the Protestants, so everyone became Protestant or else stopped going to church altogether. Because of all of this, I have an instinctively negative reaction to P&W music (similarly, I wince when one of my good friends from Steubenville is exclaims "Praise God!" – reminds me of growing up around charismatic Evangelicals who were none too friendly to us Catholics). Of course, that is a very different perspective than you would get from someone who grew up with P&W as music that has its source in Steubenville youth conferences, Life Nights, etc.

    Mike R

  62. The other question to ask is where P&W is going. Is it being used by the emergent church movement, and if so, could Catholics be unwittingly cooperating with that problematic movement?

  63. Perhaps those accustomed to P&W worship should spend half a year hearing EF low Mass exclusively. It is better to become acquainted with the Sacrifice in silence. An appreciation of the Church's chant tradition blossoms after meditative contemplation of the Eucharist.

  64. I very much appreciate this conversation, as well as the original post. Another problem with P&W music as I see it is that it subverts the medieval notion of the "book of the liturgy," that is, liturgy as a "book" with all the richness, subtlety, tension, and ambiguity of scripture itself. The liturgy is meant to be multivalent, but P&W music, as David Haas has said, is often theologically simple (if not superficial) and does not admit richness of experience or interpretation.

    In terms of the "praise" vs. "worship" distinction, I might point to the Quaker tradition, a tradition that is admittedly distant from Catholicism but nevertheless a part of the Church. In Quaker practice, "worship" means sitting together in the presence of God. Meetings for Worship are held in silence, waiting for the motions of the Spirit with no hymns and no liturgy to distract the participants. It's known as "waiting worship." Obviously, "praise" is not intrinsically a part of this worship. Here, I think that Quaker practice may prove instructional as the Church attempts to navigate these difficult issues: how is the liturgy providing a space for the divine to make its presence known? How is the liturgy obscuring it?


  65. I think one of the reasons that P&W (and other contemporary hymnody) gets used at Mass is that there is a need for this kind of emotional expression during communal worship and there is often no other outlet for it. Most parishes I have been to (and there have been many dozen, primarily up and down the East Coast, but elsewhere as well) have only one opportunity of communal worship: Mass. Regularly scheduled devotions are rare (and the one common one, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, is not communal and typically silent).
    My understanding is that regular parish devotions were common before some of the changes in canon law that accompanied and followed Vatican II (such as the mitigation of the communion fast and allowing evening Masses). This was the outlet for all sorts of hymnody, which admittedly was of uneven quality. But I think a survey of older hymnals will show that this music was often changing; the poorer quality hymns were being weeded out.
    There's nothing to prevent these kinds of devotional exercises (Vatican II, in fact, commended such exercises, but asked for them to be better harmonized with the liturgy and Scripture), which would be the place for hymns, P&W or otherwise. We contemporary Catholics need to stop having Mass as our only time to pray together!

    In response to a couple of comments above:

    About the "four-hymn" Mass: yes, even with "traditional" hymnody, this should go. It wasn't a good idea before Vatican II, and it isn't a good idea after. The four-hymn Mass was a popular response, originating in Poland and Germany, to the Low Mass…it was the people's method of vocal participation, which was adopted in some other places (such as the US).

    About Office hymns: While the office hymns are for the most part not Biblical texts, as the propers of the Mass largely are, they are set within a context of a liturgy that is almost entirely constructed of Scripture: the psalms, canticles, verses and responses. In the Office, the only two parts that are regularly composed are the hymn and the collect. The majority of the office is Bible texts; the Church's primary contribution to this type of liturgy is via the arrangement of the distinct elements. And even then, the hymns and collect are standard throughout the whole Church (or the whole religious family in the case of the distinct religious offices such as the Dominican, Benedictine, etc.).
    But when hymns replace the Propers and the Ordinary chants at Mass, a much larger percentage of the liturgy is "composed" and is a locally driven phenomenon; to the point, that when there is also a pastor who is composing his own collects and rearranging the liturgy (a still distressingly common practice among clergy of a certain age), there is hardly any sense in which it is Catholic worship, i.e., worship in which the whole (Latin) Church is engaged.

  66. While abuses need to be dealt with, I hardly think that praise and worship music, if done tastefully offends God or the Church. As a graduate of Franciscan University, and a 5-time World Youth Day participant, I experienced the beauty of Traditional as well as P&W music at mass, done in a tasteful, respectful, and worshipful manner. Pope John Paul II didn't seem to mind, and neither did Pope Benedict. Is Jesus really going to say when we face Him one day: "I didn't approve of your version of those songs at mass" Really, trying to stay within the rubrics is one thing, but saying that there is no room for any P/W music at mass is ludicrous.

  67. Anonymous said: "There is no one musical/liturgical style that trumps all others although some certainly deserve a certain respect and even preference given their role in liturgical history."

    With all due respect from one professional church musician to another, there is indeed:

    "The Church acknowledges Gregorian Chant as specially suited to the Roman Liturgy. Therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services."
    Sacrosanctum Concilium, 1963, Second Vatican Council

    "Gregorian chant, as proper to the Roman liturgy, should be given pride of place, other things being equal. Its melodies, contained in the "typical" editions, should be used, to the extent that this is possible."
    Musicam Sacram, 1967

    "All other things being equal, Gregorian chant holds pride of place because it is proper to the Roman Liturgy."
    General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 2002

  68. Excellent post, Father!
    Many Catholics today do not know what the Mass really is.
    God Bless you!

  69. Father, thank you for this article. As a youth minister myself, I am trying to gently convince my colleagues (all of whom love the Lord and His Church very deeply and who want to see young people do the same!)to give the Mass, as the Church intends it to be, a chance speak deeply to the hearts of young people.

    That being said, Praise and Worship music is simply an updated version of the hippie folk music most of my colleagues were raised on at Mass. It's hard to tell a LifeTeen parish to stop using "This is the Air I Breathe" and go back to "City of God" instead. Both are equally inappropriate at Mass. Folk music was "relevant" then… it's easy to see how one could come to the conclusion that music simply needed to be updated.

    Good catechesis and exposure to the liturgy done well are sorely needed everywhere in the wake of the inappropriate liberties taken after Vatican II. (Not to mention training talented young musicians to actually "do" chant– something they have never heard before!)

    A daunting task. Come, Holy Spirt!

  70. @ Paul: "I too am a recovering P&W leader at Mass, and I deeply regret it. I'm selling my guitar this weekend. :-D"

    Don't be hasty! Pick up a book on classical guitar music and you will find a new world of guitar music opening up before you. The guitar has many beautiful applications. All of them have in common the fact that they are outisde of the liturgical setting.

  71. Very good article, Father. I also appreciated the comments by M.C. Baurschmidt (spl?) on the third of June, and "Michael" and "David Haas" on the sixth of June.

    Some elements of the original article i found very good summaries but i do have a few problems, largely pointed out by the afore mentioned comments.

    In reply to Michael I would say that it is appropriate to "pick on" praise and worship in this way as it is a relatively young movement, and it does have alot of very young faithful followers who are active in their churches and doing their best to follow God. As has been pointed out by many comments, most people just dont know about propers, or have ever heard of the Roman Gradual. Also Fathers post is rather broad brushed, but in my own experience, as in other people's the strokes are fair.

    I dont know if the neccessity of including the story from when you were a teenager was beneficial to the piece- I agree with the need to stay in the pugh and not participate in liturgical abuse is good, the reply wasn't, i'm sure helpful. (It might be a fun story to tell other like minded individuals, but it takes away from the force of the arguement).

    It is important i tihnk to understand that at heart the issue is a lack of liturgical understanding, catechesis in general, and also that God should impact everything we do- that is the importance of Christian culture. Most people involved in P&W are doing their best to be good Catholics, as i hope we all are.

    Point 1: I find this somewhat irrelevant, but that might just be me.
    Point 2: I appreciated the comment clarifying Martin Luthers views. But there does seem to be an understanding in much of modern Catholics minds that the liturgy is something we do, not something God does. This needs to be corrected.
    Point 3: I find this very intriguing. I have heard this argued before, and I think it has some weight to it. When I went to Life Teen there were probably 40-50 young people there. Many of them would not have otherwise went to mass. When it stopped, Almost all of them stopped going to mass. This shows a major problem with the formation of the young people going. HOWEVER that lifeteen drew people who otherwise would not have went is, i think very important. How can this be used for the greater glory of God? Gregorian propers followed by P&W hymns? I dont think anyone would be really satisfied with that, I wouldnt. I don't think it is what Our Lord wants for us to merely say "Gregorian Chant is how it has to be" if it would make people not go to mass. And I do know people who might not go to mass if they thought they would have to listen to chant. The problem is their own, but the Church still has to minister to them.
    Points 4 and 5 I think are spot on, and a major problem with P&W in general, especially during mass.
    Points 6 and 7: As michael, on June 6th, mentioned, these problems are not limited to P&W, but exist in most parishes as well. This cannot be a defence of P&W though, "Everbody does it" never is. The devotion of most people i know who are involved in P&W should enable them to adapt to liturgical laws. The problem is that no-one has ever heard gregorian chant is still expected, or they think it is a law kind of like a speeding limit- not REALLY meant to be obeyed.
    Points 8 and 9: Both valid points, but i think they seem to deny the actual importance of emotions. We shouldn't deny the proper place of emotions in conversion, and spiritual life, even though others misinterpret it.
    Point 10: Again at root is a misunderstanding of liturgical law which needs to be appreciated.
    Point 11: Another good point.

  72. I can't help but think to myself that kids can never become Jesus loving Catholics with-out becoming a non-denominational Christian first. By resisting change (small changes that will NOT topple the church/it's beliefs/it's teachings) we are ensuring that we will never bring kids to Christ in the Catholic church without doing so first outside the Church.

    From an evangelical point of view (especially in regards to youth),The Catholic Church is doing a very poor job. And I'm sure most clear thinking, semi-knowledgeable people would agree. And please, I don't want to hear isolated incidents about one guy you know who loved the traditional Latin Mass and it brought him to the Church and Christ. I've been heavily involved in youth ministry for most of my life, beginning when I was a teen myself.

    P.S. Although our Parish doesn't use it, Life Teen Rocks!

  73. –>In terms of the "praise" vs. "worship" distinction, I might point to the Quaker tradition, a tradition that is admittedly distant from Catholicism but nevertheless a part of the Church.

    With all due respect, the Quaker tradition is not a tradition that is part of the Church. The One, True Church of Christ is that visible Church whose members profess the true and unchanging Faith which comes down to us from the Apostles and who are united with the Pope of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter, and those Bishops, the Successors of the Apostles, in communion with him. Quaker traditions, which are Protestant innovations, are not part of the traditions of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. The worship of the True Church is the Eucharistic Sacrifice which Christ entrusted to His Apostles and which has been handed down and preserved by their successors.

    The solution to the current problems facing the Church cannot be to look outside Her own traditions and treasures or to turn to endless and needless innovations but to respected the boundaries established by the wisdom of Her Divine Founder, the Apostles and the Fathers and Doctors of Church. This is not to deny that, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the liturgical life of the Church has organically developed over time, but this was never done by spurning what had always been held as sacred and replacing it with foreign, and spiritually dangerous, elements.

    In answer to the question: how is the liturgy providing a space for the divine to make its presence known? The answer is to hold the Eucharist, the very Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the God-Man Jesus Christ, and the tabernacle which contains Him, in the place of highest honor during the Liturgy. Anything detracting from that obscures the Divine Presence among man.

  74. Thank you so much, Father, for your post. I'm so glad to be attending an EF Mass where I can focus on Our Lord, not on other people. I agree with you 100%
    God bless you.

  75. I admire your courage as a teenager to pray the rosary in that Life Teen Mass… !!!!

    God bless!


  76. Wonderful blog, Father. I'm a young Catholic and get very tired of the poor "diet" of awful music I (and other young people) am supposed to like. Give us the real stuff! Chant and Polyphony! Viva la Papa!

  77. Fr. Smith,

    Your understanding of the Mass and Theology are second to none! I appreciate your love and passion for the Mass and I hope it rubs off on the many people you will come in contact with in your years as a priest.

    On the other hand, your understanding of Praise and Worship is lacking. I know that you have spent many years studying theology and have had plenty of time to become familiar with all the laws of the church. I wish you would have spent a little more time researching and becoming familiar with P&W before speaking about it with such an authoritative tone.
    As someone who has studied both theology and P&W for many years, I can say with confidence that based on the various statements in your post, that you are far from being an authority on P&W. But the damage has been done – many people will accept your characterization of P&W as the final word on the topic. This is a very sad outcome.

    I was also a bit disappointed that you did not address the root causes of the problems you identified with P&W music. These root causes rear their ugly head in many expressions during the Mass.

    I was also saddened that you did not prescribe a more thorough remedy to the problem, but this comes from not properly identifying the problem. Instructing music leaders to not use P&W during the Mass only addresses the symptoms, not the problems.

    I believe that P&W has a very limited place in the Mass, but I would not go so far as to say that there is NO place for it. But I believe that for P&W to have a place in the Mass, that the music leader must have an excellent understanding of both P&W AND the Mass, that includes knowing the rubs.

    P&W is a very misused and abused gift from the Lord. But that does not mean it should be thrown out. It DOES show that it needs some reform, or perhaps proper education about it.

    So I would say that we all need to learn more about the Liturgy, the laws of the Church, the history of the Church. IF we take the time to learn, perhaps we will come to appreciate the traditions and the depth of the Church and what a great gift from God it is.

    Likewise, I would also say that we all need to learn more about what P&W is and its place in the Church – especially supposed leaders of P&W! If we take the time to learn more about and understand it better we will come to appreciate what a great gift from God that P&W is.

    Neither of these (the Mass or P&W) should be devalued, disrespected, or mischaracterized. They are both gifts from God. Everything from God has its place in creation, so lets give it the dignity and place God intended.


  78. I loved this article Father. It captured and distilled so many points I have been thinking about for years now. I left the Catholic faith in 1973 when P+W music was just starting in the protestant Church. P+W music became the "Blessed sacramnet" for us. We used the "woship" time to touch God and be touched by god. Only problem is that it was based on how well the band whipped the crowd up. i know this because I played electric bass, guitar, violin in these praise bands for years and years. But something didn't feel right to me all along but couldn't put my finger on it. The evangelicals have used P+W experience to attempt to fill the vacuum left by the removal of the sacraments from the Church. This ex-Catholic must have still felt the void inside because 7 years ago, i came back. Now I can't think of anything more beautiful and true than the worship of God through the liturgy. He offers himself to God we offer ourselves to him. A true sacrifice of flesh and blood and our sacrifice of ourselves.
    There is no music on earth, no P+W experience that could eve trump the worship that occurs during the Mass. I get nervous when I see our young people getting more "enthused" over P+W sessions, than the Holy sacrifice of the Mass. Thanks for the article.
    Russ Rentler, M.D.

  79. This is an extreme situation that you witnessed, but Lifeteen has brought our youth closer to God and His beautiful sacraments. Now the parish you attended as a teen was not the best example of what Lifteen can do. One of our teens was abused by his father as a child, and now the father won't speak to him because he is Catholic. Through Lifeteen he has found a home, and is learning about the beautiful Catholic faith. The Holy Spirit is working through Lifeteen in many beautiful ways.

    Also, when my mother grew up if it was not for Vatican II, she would have left the Catholic faith. As a child she had no idea what was happening when the mass was said in Latin. She-along with her brothers- were supposed to understand and pray with the mass, but they couldn't understand and they couldn't pray. Sadly she is the only child in her family remaining in the Catholic faith.

    My great uncle was a priest in Rome during Vatican II, and he says that Latin was not the founding language. Why weren't we saying mass in Greek?
    Most importantly, ideas will always contradict one another. As Catholics we should preserve the ideas of our founding day, Pentecost. As long as we pray with God and for God, why is it so wrong?
    God Bless

  80. Where is all of the Church law on liturgy you speak of? If there is such law, I will happily follow it. But you seem similar to Catholic liberals who constantly speak of the changes instituded by Vatican II, but never cite one of the supposed changes in the text. Where's your text?

    If we believe lex orandi, lex credendi, then we should look at the Church's prayer to understand it's beliefs and teachings.

    According to the Church's prayer, your definition of praise is too narrow. Both praise and worship are in fact vital parts of Holy Mass, which is the prayer of the Church community (including angels and saints), not just individuals.

    "Lord God, Heavenly King, Almighty God and Father, we worship You, we give You thanks, we praise You for your glory!"

    "May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands, for the praise and glory of His name…"

    "Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right to give Him thanks and praise."

    Eucharistic Prayer IV: "Countless hosts of angels stand before you to do your will; they look upon your splendor and praise you, night and day."

    "We too praise your glory as we say: 'Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, Heaven and earth are full of your glory, Hosanna in the highest!"

    Eucharistic Prayer I: "We come to you, Father, with praise and thanksgiving, through Jesus Christ your Son."

    "You know how firmly we believe in you and dedicate ourselves to you. We offer you this sacrifice of praise for ourselves and those who are dear to us."

    "He took bread in his sacred hands and looking up to heaven, to you, his almighty Father, he gave you thanks and praise…When supper was ended, he took the cup. Again he gave you thanks and praise."

    Eucharistic Prayer II: "May we praise you in union with them, and give you glory…"

    Eucharistic Prayer III: "Father, you are holy indeed, and all creation rightly gives you praise."

    "We shall become like you and praise you forever through Christ our Lord, from whom all good things come."

    Eucharistic Prayer IV: "[G]ather all who share this one bread and one cup into the one body of Christ, a living sacrifice of praise. Lord, remember those for whom we offer this sacrifice…"

  81. Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, par. 10: "For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and Baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of his Church, to take part in the sacrifice and to eat the Lord's Supper."

    Par. 116: "The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy; therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services. But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations…"

    Par. 120: "In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church's ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man's mind to God and to higher things. But other instruments also may be admitted for use in divine worship…"

    Par. 19: "[P]astors of souls must promote the liturgical instruction of the faithful and also their active participation in the liturgy, both internally and externally, taking into account their age…"

    Par. 119: In certain parts of the world…there are peoples who have their own musical traditions, and these play a great part in their religious and social life. For this reason, due importance is to be attached to their music, and a suitable place is to be given to it…"

    Par. 30: "To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons and songs, as well as by actions, gestures and bodily attitudes."

    Par. 23: "Finally, there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them…"

  82. You were right in your early observations as Life Teen having cult like influence. I was there and saw it born. I was friendly with the founder. but it looked like a cult of personality and it was his ego being boosted not the Holy Spirit. Of course you know his unfortunate history. We are still fighting the smoke he left in his wake.

    I'm obviously in a new parish .

    I'm not happy with it but am doing my best to remind myself the Eucharist is valid and so is the confessional. With that I rest in faith the the Holy Spirit will win eventually.

    God Bless You

  83. Christopher,

    you typed many letters but don't say much.

    instead of attacking the author why don't you try to explain what p&w is in your perspective.

    you say that the Mass and p&w are both gifts from God. But please keep in mind that the Mass is God's work of redemption thru Jesus made present. The mass, thru the power of the Holy Spirit and the ordained priest makes present the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. No other works of praise or worship by man can make this happen. I'm just saying.

    Pax tecum

  84. Thank you Father, for sharing this. I thought I was the only Catholic left who still believed in the original Holy Mass

  85. Friend, God already united us with Him through Jesus the Christ and praise is worship not some empty act of man's religion. All through scripture we are told of men and women worshiping God through praise, song and dance. Under the law man approached God through a temporal mediator but Jesus became our permanent and eternal mediator that brought us to the Father and your rituals do not add to that in any way shape or form. you should come to know your Savior and God intimately and learn his Word not just your Church doctrine and the rituals therein. Blessings to you and I pray you come to know the true meaning of worship and how much God loves when we do that in the many ways we can…

  86. I thought your article was good, but I have concerns about the part referenced on Martin Luther. As a lifelong Lutheran, I have never in my life been taught that we the people can do ANYTHING (apart from Jesus) that is worthy enough for the Triune God. There is no worthy sacrifice that our sinful flesh could possible offer. We merely show up for the Divine Service where we are the receivers of Christ's gifts (Word and Sacraments). Christ did and does ALL the work. We Christians are nothing without being washed in Christ's blood in our baptism. Christ covers us with His righteousness. If any human thinks that he/she can add to what Christ did for all humanity on the cross, then they are in grave error.

  87. Father,
    Thank you for your thoughts on this subject. While I agree with many of your points. As a staff member for Life Teen Inc. and a Life Teen Alum myself I believe the first important distinction to be made here is that Life Teen itself is a great organization that provides great resources. Statistics have shown and I have known many teens whose lives have been changed by Life Teen. The Life Teen family works tirelessly to lead teens closer to Christ by meeting them where they are and bringing them to the Eucharist. The organization is and will always remain Eucharist centered. I believe praise and worship music is something that can take teens that have yet to experience Christ in an intimate way outside of themselves and give words and sound to feelings they may not understand or know how to express. The goal of all those who write and lead their community in praise and worship is always to lead to the sacrament and to lift our hearts and minds to God. Most importantly Life Teen is not just a rock n' roll Mass and to equate its work to just that takes away from the organization and the work they do.

  88. I worked with youth liturgy for 27 years and the students in both my schools got involved in the mass, through the praise and worship, then through becoming eusharistic ministers and ministers of the word. The music drew them in, the Spirit drew them on. I have heard from graduates that leaving high school they couldn't find a similar experience in the parishes and then they drifted away. The problem is not "catering to the youth", it is not travelling with them and helping the eucharist remain part of their lives.

  89. If they have a choice between a liturgy that engages them or one where they are spectators, they will choose the former. If the latter is all we offer….then the church loses a whole generation. As it seems we have. What would it look like if we continued to grow with the youth and continued to engage them further as they matured. Finding different ways for them to minister to each other and speak to each other. Theology on Tap is one way, there needs to be many more young adult venues, and a liturgy that engages them as participants not onlookers. There is so much passion for truth and justice in the young adult community and there is so much need for ministry to young families. It is the church who has let this generation down. We got them excited by music of praise and worship and then we said you're on your own. Go back to what your parents and grandparents are doing – which is being passive onlookers – we don't recognise your gifts or charisms. You can't preach or lead your peers any more.

  90. In reference to your P&W 6th point, Father, then why have the three past chief gaurdians of the liturgy allowed contemporary musical expressions to be used at World Youth Day? Even dancing and swaying? Shouldn't these guardians have stopped this possible deliberate intent to manipulate human emotion?

    I am a former LifeTeen Youth Minister from Mesa, AZ where it all started. I saw great fruit from the liturgies that we celebrated. I saw teens going to monthly confession. I saw teens in the chapel, by themselves before our Eucharistic Lord. I saw teens bringing their families and friends back to the church. I see many of those teens as adults at Masses today. I know many those teens who are now married in the Church and baptizing their children. Many of the great leaders today's youth ministry movement are products of LifeTeen.

    Lastly, Father, I hope you are not proud of your disruption of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as the context seems to suggest that you might be. If so, may I suggest you bring this to your next confession.

    By the way, remember your italicized point 6 when you sing that folksy "Silent Night" this Christmas.

  91. I'm sure you were acting with the best of intentions in your LifeTeen work, but here and now, making a smug suggestion about who needs to go to confession is not really a great witness of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in your life. It comes across as sort of bitter.

  92. Mona,

    You inadvertently included the answer to the problem you posed about young "graduates" being unable to find similar feeling experiences in the parishes, which you blame for their drifting away.

    The problem is that their connection to the Eucharist was rooted in feelings or emotion and so naturally, a feeling-centered experience became foundational to their connection to the Eucharist and ultimately to Jesus and His Holy Spirit.

    This is why the Church Fathers and the saints who developed Catholic spiritual foundational to this ancient Faith stressed avoiding reliance upon feelings as the basis for spiritual experiences. Re-read what Father wrote above in Point #8:

    "Conversion is the formation of the conscience under the grace of the Holy Spirit to inform the intellect and strengthen the will to live the supernatural life of the virtues in union with Christ… In reality, the life of grace brought about by conversion is not an experience at the level of the emotions, but a movement of the soul over and above those emotions."

    Those whose spirituality is founded in feelings will struggle terribly when those feelings subside, as is the nature of feelings and emotions, much like those who believe that they no longer love a spouse or lesser love interest because of the apparent absence of feelings they associate with love. Lot's of relationships, including marriages, end prematurely because our culture – including within the Church – is terribly ignorant of the nature of feelings and emotions.

    It seems you must have skimmed over Father's detailed critique or completely ignored it in your haste to defend Life Teen. One must wonder what LifeTeen's eventual loss rate is once "graduates" eventually must encounter the actual shortcomings of an experience or feelings-based reality – IF we can get honest stats from them in this regard.

    Either way, this is an area which I believe the Scriptural warning about the angel of darkness masquerading as the angel of light (2 Corinthians 11: 14-15) applies most pointedly.

  93. Mona,

    You have revealed you do not get the essential characteristic of participation in the Mass, which Father addresses repeatedly above. I'm becoming convinced you didn't read past his initial criticism of the LifeTeen Mass. Otherwise, how is it you could expound so severely on the "virtues" of the false participation you lecture him about? You failed to attempt to answer or refute his specific criticisms, suggesting you did NOT read them or you would have attempted a refutation. Or, perhaps, you did as I first suggested; you barely skimmed over them in your haste to lecture him on his "errors."

    Here's a couple gems from above which should give you pause long enough to consider your own error:

    "…it is the Sacrifice of Redemption that is the highest Praise to the Trinity, and that our participation in it is not by what we do, but by who we are as baptized Christians in the life of grace." (from Point #2, in the main body of the post)

    "5. Participation in the liturgy is principally interior, by the union of the soul with the Christ who celebrates the liturgy. Any externalizations of that interior participation are meaningless unless that interior participation is there." (from the summary at the end – not the main body of the post)

    Participation in the Mass is NOT what we do, as believed by you, many in LifeTeen and the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and by the entire progressive/liberal wing of the Catholic Church, as well. It is a significant error, no matter which group to which one belongs.

    Mona, it is clear you are passionately concerned with the spiritual growth of young people in LifeTeen, and that you have the same attachment to how LT does things which accompanies so many folks involved in "movements."

    However, one result is your view of the considerations Father raises here is myopic in the extreme. I suggest you go back, and slowly – SLOWLY – read his post before praying about it and then contemplating it. Rinse and repeat until you get it. You instructed Father in YOUR point of view and completely failed to receive the gift he offered you.

  94. I echo richardchonak, but I'll add that you seem so caught up in the perceived correctness of the LifeTeen re-design of the Mass that you seem to elevate your importance (and its) in your own mind.

    Even if one finds it necessary to correct a priest, especially publically (although I see you hide behind your first name only), one must do so with humility and not arrogance, and with a certain awareness that one might actually be wrong.

    I have to say, I was a little stunned to read how you tried to school this priest without refuting his post with anything of substance beyond your own limited "experience."

    Speaking of "fruit,"carlos, just how many LifeTeen "graduates" grow up to by authentically practicing Catholics at the parish level?

    Or does LifeTeen know the honest truth about that?

  95. Speaking as a "youth" (22 years old at the time of this comment) very much in the demographic marketed to by LifeTeen, I can say with great certainty that your (obviously well-intentioned) methods would have wreaked absolute havoc on my journey to the Faith if you'd been the first Catholics I encountered, and your sanctimonious pontifications about "journeying with [us]" and "recognizing [our] gifts and charisms" – which I had no intention of upvoting but did by accident (and I assume were meant to rally us to your cause) – come off as little more than condescending coddling from someone who clearly hasn't kept up with the flux of generations.

    For me and most of the other young committed Catholics I've met during my journey, the truly beautiful, timeless, transcendent liturgies advocated by Fr. West and others on this site were (and are) the linchpin of our continued spiritual health. The priest who guided me through RCIA and eventually confirmed me was a master of this, always wearing highly detailed, eye-catching vestments (some of which were only used once a year, such as a black chasuble for All Souls Day or a blue chasuble for our parish's May Crowning), always chanting the Eucharistic Prayer to the melodies inscribed in the Missal, and using probably more incense than any priest I've met since. When he was transferred out-of-county and replaced with a series of priests of a more "low church" sensibility, that pretty much gutted my faith life…until I was introduced to the Traditional Latin Mass for the first time.

    Since that day, I've also been exposed to the Byzantine Divine Liturgy and the Divine Worship of the Personal Ordinariate (which I plan on joining very soon, being technically a convert from the Episcopal Church), and I can safely say, even though none of those liturgies gave me any specific task to accomplish or single out any of my talents for use, I felt far more actively engaged and much more worthily accompanied on my journey by those Masses than anything the P&W crowd ever offered me.

    To be fair, my first couple experiences with them did help deepen my relationship with God somewhat, but after the third or fourth time of trying to recapture the same initial rush of feelings and failing, I very quickly began to feel isolated, manipulated, and spiritually starved. As an example of what I consider P&W done right, try this on for size:

    Notice the difference between this and most of what you hear in Charismatic Catholic communities: contemporary style, yes, but coupled with a timeless melody and sacral English. If all the Catholic P&W artists out there could get a handle on this, I'd be much more supportive of them. But until that day comes, I have no patience for any of the finger-wagging older folks who've deluded themselves into thinking they have a handle on what will keep "the youth" in the Church because they're "totally radical" and can really "dig it, man."

    I'm sorry if I'm being overly harsh or uncharitable, but if you really want to help actual, flesh-and-blood youths – instead of some vague concept of "the youth" – to stay in the Church, you need to realize that a large portion of them (myself and my closest friends included) have no patience for P&W and would prefer something that actually speaks to the eternal in all generations instead of the vapid, therapeutic desires of the current generation. If all we get in church is the kind of music we'd hear at a Jonas Brothers concert but with Jesus sprinkles…why do we even need the Jesus sprinkles?

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