“Much has been done, but there remains much still to do”

Today in a press conference the Holy See announced the symposium

(Photo: Wikimedia)

“Sacrosanctum Concilium. Gratitude and commitment for a great ecclesial movement”, organized by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments which will take place five days from now, February 18-20, in Rome. The symposium will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Council Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy,

Cardinal Canizares Llovera, who was appointed prefect of the CDWDS by Pope Benedict in 2008, was quoted heavily in the report:

Cardinal Canizares commented that the [Second Vatican] Council was “an invitation to the Church to be herself, as God wished her to be and created her, and to act in a manner coherent with her vocation and with the mission that God Himself has given her. … With this beginning, which focuses on the theme of the Liturgy, the emphasis is unequivocally placed on the primacy of God in the Church; God first of all. … When God is not in first place, everything else loses its way”. 

The Vatican Council II Fathers demonstrated this priority first by approving the Constitution “Sacrosanctum Concilium”, clarifying that “worship comes first; God comes first. Therefore, beginning with the theme of the Liturgy, the Council explicitly turned attention to God’s primacy and at the same time indicated it as a sure point of orientation for the path to be followed in the future”. 

With regard to “gratitude” and “commitment”, the prelate added, “We must, indeed, thank God for this first fruit of the Council … not only for the Constitution itself, but also for the renewing dynamism of the Church that it has given rise to, and continues to provide. At the same time, urgent commitment on our part to the continuation and deepening of the liturgical renewal hoped for by the Vatican Council II is now called for. It is true that much has been done, but there remains much still to do”. 


[Emphasis added]. The full report can be read here.

This news comes only two days after the new Vatican initiative “Sacred Music: Fifty Years after the Council” was first reported. It seems that the document [you can download it here], was first released on December 17, 2013. It is addressed to the Episcopal Conferences, Major Religious Institutes, and Theological Faculties of the world, and includes a 40-question survey on the state of sacred music in the past 50 years, followed by a profoundly rich theological framework for the proper understanding of the music of the liturgy. Responders have until April 30, 2014 to submit their response. 
The initiative, put forth jointly by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Pontifical Council for Culture, has the aim of “reflecting on the developments in the field of music and the desire to offer a contribution to the ministry of musicians for the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful.”
Reading this document brings to mind a reorganization of the CDWDS by Pope Benedict in 2011 with the motu proprio Quaerit simper, which, according to a report at the time, had the aim of freeing up the congregation for a greater promotion of the sacred liturgy, particularly through the establishment of a “Liturgical Art and Sacred Music Commission”. 
Many of us had high hopes for this commission, but no news ever came on any specific initiatives from it. And then we had the abdication of Pope Benedict a year later, followed by the election of Pope Francis, and a period of uncertainty as to nature the work of the Vatican in regard to the promotion of the liturgy.
That is, until now.
It now seems likely that this commission has been hard at work all along. And with Francis’ emphasis on liturgical catechesis in these past few days, and now with the announcement the symposium on Sacrosanctum Concilium, it seems that the long-awaited work of the commission is finally taking flight. 
Sacred Music: Fifty Years after the Council is monumental, and it must be read by anyone who is concerned about the continued renewal of the sacred liturgy in the life of the Church. In particular, the “Accompanying Text” at the very end must be closely studied, even read before the questionnaire itself, which itself reads like a kind of examination of conscience for the Church universal after 50 years of experience following the Second Vatican Council.
The theological framework at the conclusion of this document, given in seven articles, is the most elaborate and articulate writing on the topic of sacred music given by the Church since Musicam Sacram of 1967.
It has no need to repeat the words of the Vatican documents of the 20th century, from Tra le sollecitudini to Sacrosanctum Concilium to Musicam Sacram to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, and it doesn’t repeat them.
This new initiative gets to the heart of the reason why, perhaps, the Church’s vision for sacred music has not been more fully realized, even 50 years after it was concretely established in the Church’s mind and teaching in ecumenical council.
The heart of the matter is the formation of liturgical musicians
I would like to put forth the following prediction: Following Sacred Music: Fifty Years after the Council the universal Church will receive a Roman document with concrete guidelines and expectations regarding the education and formation of liturgical musicians. This will include not only musical and artistic formation for those who plan to serve the liturgy in this capacity, but it will also include a deep theological, sacramental, and spiritual formation, as is required by anyone who seeks to be thoroughly imbued by the spirit of the liturgy.
What exactly will the “contribution to the ministry of musicians” by the CDWDS and Pontifical Council for Culture be? We will have to wait and see. There seems to be great hope, though, that the future of authentic liturgical is as bright as ever.

19 Replies to ““Much has been done, but there remains much still to do””

  1. "The heart of the matter is the formation of liturgical musicians."

    Yes, yes, yes – this cannot be emphasized enough.

    For every one hundred competent or even brilliant musicians laboring in Catholic churches today, there are perhaps one or two who have received a proper liturgical formation – or even know what that might mean. Musician training alone is not enough, and can even mitigate against carrying out what the liturgy demands in terms of music.

  2. "following the confirmation of Canizares by Pope Francis,"

    Obviously Card. Canizares is still head of the CDW and, perhaps will be there for awhile given this important work. But was he really re-confirmed aside from the provisional re-appointment everyone received two days after Pope Francis' election? The good Cardinal was reconfirmed as a member of the Bishops Congregation on Dec. 16th, but nothing more than this, from what I can tell.

  3. This is absolutely one of the most significant, needed and welcomed documental inquiry regarding our profession and mission I've seen from Rome in my lifetime, Adam; most unexpected as well.
    I believe in both content and tone it manages to both query and guide forthcoming discussions in manner that hopefully will engage divergent POV's and diffuse inclination towards argumentation.
    I can't wait to share this with my local leadership and pastoral staff.
    Thanks for this series of articles, my friend.

  4. Signifcant and needed, because it asks the right questions, and (by wise omission) refuses to ask the wrong questions.

    A larger question that needs to be asked at the moment — apart from regular Chant Cafe readers, how many people know about this document? At least, of those who should know about it?

  5. Charles, thank you for the kind words, friend. When I first looked at this document yesterday I didn't understand it's magnitude, then I studied it very closely and see that it is a masterful piece of work that has unbelievable potential, depending on what will come as a result of it.

  6. I have the sense that many do not know about this, though there is a possibility (we should hope) that it was sent to every bishop, religious community and theological faculty in the world. Fr. Joncas mentions the January date of publication at PrayTell, but I was unable to find any reference to this anywhere online. I think that the Liturgical Institute in Chicago will be replying. I suspect that the USCCB Secretariat for Divine Worship will also be replying. Who else? We'd better not let this slide, though. Responses are due in Rome at the end of April!

  7. When I see the various references in the questionnaire to animators of the liturgy, I am left wondering what precisely this means. Since the term is presented even in relation to instrumental music, I have to think that it is not a synonym for "leaders of song" who would try to "animate" the congregation in a boisterous manner. Perhaps it is meant to include everyone in a leadership role; celebrants, psalmists, organists, commentators.

  8. Just above #16 in the report:

    "The artistic value of a musical component then is a necessary but insufficient premise, and the ritual context requires that the work of art be concretely modeled in light of the needs of the liturgical action."

    Here – especially with newer music – is where I believe some otherwise excellent, well-trained, musically skilled Choirmasters could benefit from the formation proposed in this document.

  9. The word "animator" is more a European term meaning "a person who enlivens and encourages something, especially a promoter of artistic projects." The closest we can get in American English is something like "promoter" or "director" but with the allied idea of "enthusiast." Thus one can be an "animator" of Gregorian chant or Renaissance polyphony. It does not mean "jumping around like a fool in front of the congregation." But I can understand the confusion as we don't talk that we in the US.

  10. I too was disappointed to see the "animator" word in this document. To me, Q35 meant precisely the physical space accorded (during Mass) to the glorified waver of arms, who is often someone with little musical formation. As opposed to the choir director, who might know major from minor.
    Of course, my experience of animators come from France where they seem to be an essential part of the furniture. When I lived in England we seemed to get away without them – and the singing of the congregation was far superior! Must be a culture thing…..

  11. I read it carefully and I am afraid that is what it does mean. Although the word "animator" doesn't have to mean that in other contexts.

    I agree with Adam that there are some very good parts to this document. Unfortunately there are also some parts that will provide an opening for the Pray 'n' Sniff people. (e.g. Questions #13-15) The answer to these questions should be "No, young contemporary people perfectly understand traditional sacred music and are attracted to it." Thus, I am not afraid of the true answers to these questions. The problem lies in opportunities for lobbying by people with nefarious purposes.

  12. I believe there is an "animator" in this video of the closing EF Solemn High Mass for the Chartres pilgrimage. He is dressed in surplice and cassock and is waving white flags from the altar steps during the "Chez Nous Soyez Reine". Yet another indication of how progressive those wonderful French traditional Catholics are in the true sense of the term.

  13. I hope that this effort sheds more light than heat on some topics of disagreement including the role of contemporary music in the liturgy. When it speaks of "promotion and… welcoming these new musical registers" that may signal a sympathetic view of contemporary styles of music. So too with, "Is there space in the different musical expressions (rock ‘n’ roll, pop, musical, ambiental music, experimental and electronic etc.) for a dialogue that can lead to a redefinition of sacred music? Indeed of liturgical music?" Will the commission conclude, "NO! These practices must be stamped out immediately!' or rather something approaching a balance of traditional and contemporary forms of music in the sacred liturgy?

  14. Although in point #6 of the Appendix it seems to reject the very possibility of such music raised by those questions:

    "In daily liturgical celebrations use is made, in some parts of the world, of a music of a minimalist character defined “ambiental music” or “new age”. Often, for example, it is used as background music for Eucharistic adoration, but it is not really conducive to a state of personal prayer. While prayer opens up, through the action of the Spirit, to the mystical contemplation of the mystery of Christ, ambiental music raises states of consciousness that are artificial and inadequate . . ."

    I detect "many hands" in the production of this document. I also think that it is important that we answer it. I know it is a questionaire for the bishops, but the CMAA ought to give a response.

  15. Scott,
    I rather thought such concerns were clearly and deftly left "open-ended" in the document, to its credit. For too few of us who have adhered to the reality and acceptance of the Big Tent Church this is encouraging because now the quality of composition, whether in relation to the two stated forms in legislation or not, can be addressed openly. And if bishops and their Office of Worship agents don't take advantage of this formal inquiry, then shame on them.

  16. Adam, Thank you so much for this post. The Enquiry is quite a thorough "examination of conscience" for the Church, as you put it. I also pray your prediction or even something close to it happens. If so, there will be tremendous spiritual growth in the Church, no less musical.

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