Saturday, June 29, 2013

Mass with a Menu

Though we put together a Mass program every week, I've often wondered about its value.  The Gregorian notation is beautiful to look at, and it gives Mass goers the information (including translations) that our pastor feels the congregations needs. Is anyone really looking at it?  Also, when it comes to polyphony, it bothers to me to include the names of composers, their dates, and any other information about the pending "performance."  I've always thought that this distracts from what the Mass is all about.  Seems I'm not alone.

I've been going through past issues of Sacred Music, and have come upon this piece from 1992, by Karoly Kope. On the "worship aid" that many Catholic parishes are in the habit of printing:
"Here we go again, aping Protestant ways!" Imitating something good is commendable and should not disturb me. But I felt that what was being imitated here was not a good practice at all. It was a practice adopted by those who have no Mass and who made the most of what was left of their service: a reading of scriptures and a sermon, encased in a musical setting. Remove all music from Protestant services, and there is not enough left for a true religious ceremony. That being the case, it is understandable why Protestants have always taken their church music more seriously than Catholics (the Mass remains intact even without a single note of music), and it explains, at least to me, why the Protestant congregation, rather than following a missal, follows a bulletin "program" with all that information about the music performed and the performers."

Kope continues...

"To a Catholic like myself this in not only very foreign but also very disturbing. As a churchgoer I want to be absorbed in prayer and lost in the proceedings of the Mass. I don't care to be told what the next "anthem" will be or who will play what on the organ. In fact, I prefer not to know. When something particularly beautiful strikes me and I want to know what it was, I simply ask and find out—after Mass."
 Have we reached a point in time where printing a program is necessary, however?  Is the notion of "ritual" so foreign to worship that no one knows what is means any more?