Do we need a softer, more secularized approach?

[In the course of a recent on-line conversation about why secular-sounding music doesn’t belong in the Mass, I offered this comment.]

I could understand the intention to create an easy, comfortable experience for outsiders: having the interior of the building look like an auditorium or a shopping mall food court; having no-brainer music that sounds like evangelical choruses from Christian radio. Some clergy and musicians might think that a soft-style approach would help some people feel comfortable setting foot in a Catholic parish church: people whose background didn’t include the faith.

This approach has its limitations, though: it doesn’t provide the liturgical formation that growing Christians need. It reminds me of the idea of having separate Masses for various age groups of young people on Sunday. It’s well-meant, and some people say they like it. But it creates a ghetto situation, and doesn’t lead the children into the regular parish experience.

If there were a Mass conducted specifically for “seekers” as a transitional experience for them — where they wouldn’t be expected to know the rites, sing the songs, stand or sit; where people who aren’t Catholic and aren’t ready to receive Holy Communion could stay in their pews without standing out: there might be some benefit for some souls.

But treating the whole parish as though they aren’t able to appreciate the authentic rites, or genuine church art, or music that sounds like church music: as though these things were over their heads: that’s really a kind of disrespect, and an imposition.

The soft-style approach is ultimately even deceptive, because Christianity is not a low-commitment religion that people can reasonably take or leave, according to their personal tastes and preferences. Belonging to Jesus is a matter of high commitment.

One Reply to “Do we need a softer, more secularized approach?”

  1. I agree with your comments. I’d like to add that the softly, softly approach doesn’t seem to work for the un-churched. People who have never, or rarely, been to church are usually looking to find meaning in their lives. Giving them the “culture” that a shopping mall food court provides when they come, seeking something deeper, defeats the purpose. I have seen people come to our Ordinariate mass (ad orientem, sacral language, all the propers sung, Gregorian chant and polyphony) converted after experiencing the liturgy only once.

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