Thursday, February 14, 2013

Why we're not ready for a "white list" of hymns

The USCCB has put published an admirable resource package to be used in this time of papal transition. It provides appropriate proper prayers and many helpful suggestions for this quite extraordinary time in the life of the Church.

Pages 10 and 11 provide hymn suggestions. It seems worth pointing out that with very few exceptions, these hymns have one thing in common: they presuppose a "contemporary" instrumentation, such as a piano or guitar, or a combination of these.

Most cathedral music programs and many parish programs have moved beyond the reactionary post-Vatican II period, during which the pipe organ was considered old-fashioned. Many have taken to heart the Council's teaching,
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 (the human) mind to God and to higher things.
While not intending to criticize these resources, especially given the incredibly unusual and rushed circumstances, and their overall great usefulness, and while keeping in mind that the hymns are listed as a "limited" group of suggestions, it seems to me that this is an helpful example of why there must not be any legislation on hymns right now, dividing those hymns that are inadequate for Catholic worship from those that are truly worthy. It seems quite obvious that we have not yet fully recovered from another anomalous time in the life of the Church, the earlier "folk" era of Catholic music. I am not sure why this is. But until we have recovered from this, it seems to me that the difference between inadequate and worthy music should remain unlegislated.
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