Friday, September 6, 2013

10 Quick Thoughts on Full, Conscious, Active Participation

Kathy Pluth's article from yesterday sparked some thoughts of mine own which I posted in a comment there. I thought it was worthwhile to bring those thoughts into their own post here.

FCAP (or is it FACP?), that is - Participation which is full, conscious, and active (and actual, thank you very much) - is one of those weird shibboleth topics among those of us who argue about liturgical matters. It is my opinion that the reason for the arguing is mostly that everyone is right when they describe what FACP is, but wrong when they describe what is isn't.

And of course, most people get hung up on one little piece of an explanation or idea. For 40 years now we've been told it means "congregational singing" and, by extension "congregational physical and vocal activity." In reaction to this, of late, many people are claiming that not only does it not mean those things exclusively (which is true) but that it doesn't include those things at all (which is ludicrous). Unfortunately, this sort of thing happens all the time in life, in history, and in liturgical matters- extremes are countered not by sane moderation, but opposite extremes. (And sometimes, with some subjects, sane moderation is seen as extremism by all the crazy people on either side. Sigh.)

So, anyway - and without further ado - I thought it might be helpful to lay out - in as clear language as possible - ten propositions about participation which communicate at least my own thinking on the matter.

  1. Full, Active, and Conscious Participation by the faithful in the liturgy is very much to be desired and cultivated.
  2. FACP includes singing at the proper times, listening at the proper times, responding at the proper times, kneeling at the proper times, and so forth. It also includes a "right disposition" and a spirit of prayer. That is to say- it is both physical AND mental AND spiritual AND emotional. (cf: Luke 10:27)
  3. Anyone who says that FACP specifically DOES NOT MEAN actually singing and otherwise being active in a conventional sense is wrong.
  4. Anyone who says that FACP specifically ONLY MEANS actually singing and otherwise being active in a conventional sense is also wrong.
  5. Singing stuff that is not really part of the liturgy does not enhance FACP. That is to say: Singing some random non-liturgical song at Mass does not qualify. Whatever it is that is being actively participated in is not the liturgy in that case.
  6. Singing/speaking/doing things that are not part of the liturgy are likewise not FACP. The dancers, the twirlers, the puppeteers, and the feather-hatted Knights* are NOT FACPing, because what they are engaged in is not part of the liturgy.
  7. Singing/speaking/doing things that are a part of the liturgy but are not proper to the person doing them is also not FACP. If I go to Mass, I am not FACPing if I say the Words of Institution along with the priest.
  8. On a purely practical level: Many of the songs and general styles of music that have been created and promoted in order to facilitate FACP do no such thing. This is sometimes because they function as extraneous material which is not part of the liturgy. More often, it is simply because the music is too difficult for congregations to really sing well.**
  9. In terms of that part of FACP which includes congregations singing the parts of the Mass which are proper to them, I am of the opinion that the most effective types of music in terms of encouraging participation are the simpler traditional styles and genres: syllabic chants, simple psalm tones, "square" hymns, and other similar pieces.
  10. The encouragement of FACP must be a lifelong process and take into consideration not only the immediate community, but where those people might be in the future. For this reason, I highly encourage the use of Latin Ordinary settings. Encouraging a universality within the Universal Church allows for our increasingly global and mobile faithful to participate fully wherever they go.***

*Someone in a comment on the earlier post attempted to make a claim that feather-hatted Knights have a legitimate liturgical function. Outside of specific circumstances, I strongly disagree. Without going into a rant that would surely become insulting I can only say: extraneous liturgical goofiness is no less extraneous or goofy when perpetrated by people who think of themselves as "traditionalists."

**This right here is my biggest problem with contemporary church music.

***Please see my article A Firm Foundation.