Who you callin’ “Bi-polar?”

A few folks here and at the blogsite 1Peter5 might have noticed a couple of articles focusing upon the homiletic style of a particular celebrant at a particular parish in a particular diocese as captured on personal video and posted to YouTube. The article I wrote I chose to delete as the YT poster/owner removed said video from YT, which of course is their prerogative. I have no clue, guess, or intuition as to why the video was washed from this site and 1P5, and I’m not going to riff at all on its removal. I “feel” sorry for using the video as an exemplar of “Liturgy Gone Wild,” as I did not intend to condemn or bury the pastor and parish in toto based upon three minutes of an unusual homily.

As of June 4th, it seems that the video was recovered by the Blog 1Peter5. Here is the URL link-


That said, I did choose to do a minimal amount of research about the parish, diocese and priest. Imagine my surprise when opening the “Liturgy” window of the diocese that virtually everything there was pro forma GIRM/CMAA/MS/CSL, even down to extolling polyphony, an official ministerial role reserved to choirs and scholas, throughout various other category buttons/windows. The button indicating the definition of “Sacred Music” was linked to Corpus Christi Watershed’s famed video featuring JMO’s wife (and sister in law?) narrating the orthodoxy of the discipline.

What’s wrong with this picture?

I tend to wonder how much lip service is paid to the informed lobby of CMAA and those who subscribe to the “Reform of the Reform” referendum bubbling up all over global Catholicism, versus the anecdotal evidence that is strikingly contrary and seemingly, purposefully subverted at the parish level? The diocesan website actually represented an ethos that is somewhat to the right of the USCCB letter, “Sing to the Lord.” So, despite the lack of perspective that a three minute video excerpt prohibits, it’s clear that there’s some sort of benign neglect in this diocese as to what constitutes pastoral leadership and surety. That’s not news to me. I’ve lived with this duplicity for decades.

I, as I indicated in my removed article, am no where’s a liturgical purist or Puritan. But, again, for the sake of future generations of baptized Roman Catholic children, we’d better get our story straight or this schizophrenic duplicity will truly bring on the “Remnant Church.” And at this moment, I am not going to be silent about propriety in a political manner of what constitutes “source and summit” of my soul’s existence. I’m not ready for the Benedict Option (google it) to further erode our Faithful’s comprehension and desire for the Divine Liturgy.

I’m done now.

Mark Shea thinks too much!

Mssr. Shea decided to expound upon the numerical significance of the number of fish caught gospel reading today, in which the number of fish is clearly identified as 153. If’n you wanna wade through his exegesis feel free to type in “patheos” in your search window.
I did share in common with him a moment of fascination about 153. However, as a lifelong musician and not too shabby theorist, what do you think was my Rorschach response?
Of course, scale degrees 1 (Tonic)- 5 (Dominant)- 3 (Mediant, whether major or minor.)
If that ain’t Trinitarian, I dunno what is. You can do the existential math with either Greek or Baroque emotional associations.
One way or another, a tuned 1-5-3 is a totally beautiful thing, even if it stands alone.

An Odd Synchronicity

I have to admit a propensity to read and consider the thoughts of that particularly difficult (Catholic) historian, Garry Wills. Oddity of oddities, sometimes I’ll read a chapter or two of his while listening to Immaculate Heart Radio. Anyway, the near simultaneous release of Will’s latest book and the surely magnificent tome of Fr. Samuel Weber’s English Propers presents an interesting notion as well as coincidence: is Anglophone Catholicism conceding the “universality of Latin” argument by attrition? Will’s first premise in his “Future…” centers around contentions about the conditions (well documented) by which Latin was promulgated as the sacral language initially and its evolution as a binding agent well into the 21st century. Of course, his position isn’t in concert with the magisterial dialectic through the course of centuries of official consideration and examination. But one has to ask if many of our most ardent proponents of the reinvigoration of the use of Latin chant and the restoration of the Propers are essentially conceding the argument (echoed by Wills’ characterization) of the principal place provided Latin Chant ratified via Vatican II and resuscitated by Summorum Pontificum?
To be fair, I think one ought to at least read the Will’s book, or at least reviews of the portion deliberating Latin as both catholic and Catholic, in light of the ever-growing cottage industry of English chant resources such as Frs. Kelly and Weber et al have afforded us

Liturgy and Sacred Music: Metanoia and Christian Viability

This is not likely the optimal time to review the effect of all our efforts to navigate, invigorate and evaluate the evangelical validity and success of our Paschal Time efforts as regards liturgy and its servant, sacred music. Having felt, heard and cogitated over four decades of Palm to Easter Sunday celebrations, it’s obvious that this effect manifests itself on at least three levels: the obligatory, perfunctorial level (not unlike attending someone’s birthday or anniversary to whom your affection is rarely demonstrated); the emotional, temporarily enthusiastic reaction to the ritual and artistic performance; and (perhaps less likely) transcendent, life altering metanoia-realization that will forever define and shape one’s remaining existence in this life.
In the clever colloquialism of the great band, REM, I’ve not lost my religion as regards CMAA, the RotR, Summorum Pontificum, or the simple recovery of a sensibility of both reverence and solemnity that the Roman Catholic Church traditions have cultivated over millenia. However, in what twilight years await many of us and myself, I am compelled to call the question (invented by my sister G), picked up by Fr. Z and associated with Pope B, 16: can “Save the Liturgy, Save the World” actually have any meaning, much less effectiveness among a disparate sect of believers in Christ Jesus, Son of God and Savior of all worlds, in an era when the obvious and ultimate salvivic power of the His redemptive sacrifice and resurrection is mitigated by factionalism, fundamentalism, strictural rigorism and internecine intolerance? The Gospel clarion to mercy, reconciliation, unity, personal salvation and the establishment of the Kingdom here waxes and wanes under the distractions of relenting tolerance, unrelenting intolerance, doctrinal uncertainty, indecision and ambiguity and other modern maladies. 
A few years ago I caused a volatile imbroglio with my friend Jeffrey Tucker’s Café article extoling of the apparently seductive chants of the muezzins from minarets while on a conference in Turkey. I rather unflinchingly could not divorce my sentiments regarding the tenets of Q’uranic Islam from the exotic beauty that Jeffrey was describing and emulating were we Roman Catholics enabled to have our call to worship in such a coherent and unified manner as practiced by Muslims.
But hence have come the scimitars and scythes, crucifixions and immolations that,  though medieval throwbacks,  still nonetheless lead to genocide and likely a shoah for all humanity in addition to Middle Eastern and  Indo/Asian Christianity should nuclear options become prevalent in the region.
So, how much do our ordos of ritual music actually affect and transform Holy Mother Church into a veritable, vital and truly valued force for all the nominally Christian/Catholic souls to behave and actualize the Church Militant? A recent news segment had a respected hymnologist declaring what most of us would call a Praise and Worship song, “In Christ Alone,” as the most important and potentially long-lived Christian hymn composed thus far in the 21st century. But often I am compelled to wonder to what end does our incessant arguing over the merits and cultural beauty and credence of our sacred treasury and our identified congenital musical forms actually have towards any Christian’s soul’s, be s/he a daily communicant or a C&E congregant, change in metanoia and missio to discipleship, commission and agape-based love so that each believer’s baptismal promises have substance as well as meaning?
In looking over all of the Paschal-tide Ordosposted at MSF and elsewhere, one has to consider whether Solomon’s resignation about vanity holds some sway over our deliberations. And I am looking in the mirror figuratively while asking about that. “Sometimes it causes me to tremble…” Yes, we are all in need of the existential purity of praying/chanting the “Dies irae” for all souls, particularly those of not only martyred, but each and every Christian of this and all ages. But if we are more concerned about the propriety and insistence upon that over someone exercising a fourth option like OEW or somesuch, we may be guilty of a myopia and judgmental posture that puts our own souls at peril. I am well aware that is a harsh position to defend. However, we cannot afford to miss the forest for the trees.

The Omega Effect-wait for it.

I write this article to give encouragement to all liturgical musicians who also are actively engaged in planning the liturgical processes and future of their assigned parishes. Enlightenment, as you will hear and have likely already found, comes in a moment. Bring that seed to fruition is another story. This is ours….

Hi there! Been a while.

Indeed, good things come to those who wait. But a portion of that waiting must be a vigilance towards “carpe diem.”

Years ago, I wrote an article whose inspiration came from one of the seminars in the New Orleans Chant Intensive through the genius and encyclopedic medium of Professor William Mahrt, grand and esteemed president of CMAA. In the advanced chant group the subject of whether there existed a strategy by which the Mahrt concept of “stuffing the Mass” could actually be accomplished. (This notion I must claim as providing impetus, as my local situation I foresaw as likely never being able to fully realize the good professor’s mantra of “The Paradigm,” essentially a Solemn High Mass sung in either an EF or OF protocol. “Stuffing the Mass” essentially means a compatible programming of the proper processionals and the versions of other propers (Gradual/Alleluia/Tract/Sequences) along with the now-customary expectations of fourth option hymns.

You can look it up here, but Mahrt (at the time) did seem to almost have a light bulb moment in NOLA when he came up with the tradition and solution, “Circumambulation.” Readers of SACRED MUSIC will quickly recall his recent article in which he explicates the concept of enveloping the congregation through two processions, the Entrance and Offertory.

Well, I’m happy to report that after lo these many intervening years, we here in Central California were enabled to realize the feasibility, and more so, the beautiful viability of circumambulation at four of our Passion Sunday Masses in our mother parish (of four merged parishes.) We had prepared the congregation, or actually the whole parish, through articles in the bulletin even though the procedure would really only work at our mother parish. Our pastor and designated associate both were “bought in” at our liturgical committee meetings months before in which we considered options for Passion Sunday. And because the concept is actually quite simple to enact there was very basic preparation for acolytes and deacons to assimilate by instruction by our liturgical coordinator and myself over the course of the four Masses.

Simply, circumambulation literally means “walking around.” Liturgically it means that the Introit begins not at the narthex doors into the nave, but from the sacristy, as commonly done at daily Mass. Instead of me (or some other musical leader) announcing the hymn and the invitation to stand, the crucifer rings the sacristy bell, everyone stands, the ministers assemble and reverence the altar and proceed down our north (stage left) aisle as the schola sings the proper Introit (in our case, chanted vernacular.)

Of course, on this Sunday under the second rite, the “In Nomine…collect…blessing….Gospel, etc.” interrupts the full procession which was by design in our situation. And then as the Entrance procession was resumed the taking up of the hymn “All glory, laud and honor…” accompanied the entourage into the center aisle and sanctuary.

We had also planned to have the Passion chanted (three schola chanters from the GIA ritual settings) at these Masses only, so that the “solemn elevtion” of these particular “Sunday Masses” would coincide with the processions.

To complete the whole circumambulation process, the crucifer, light bearers and acolytes proceeded down the opposite south aisle to enfold the procession of the gifts to the sanctuary, thus enabling us to sing both the Offertorio and the hymn “O Sacred Head.”

To sum up, both the associate pastor and pastor were quite taken with the simple elegance of Dr. Mahrt’s brainstorm solution that had its genesis to this participant a number of years ago in NOLA. Though we all here are in his debt for this beautiful realization, the effect attests simple to ‘soli Deo gloria.”

I see this becoming normative for at least one or a few more Sunday Masses here in Central California . And, more hopefully, this watershed moment bodes well for whenever the construction of our 2500 capacity Church is complete and dedicated.

The Intent of Sung Prayer

Not getting around to other parishes, not even our other three from our merged four, on Sundays, I’m not always up on current affairs as regards the practice of musical worship in general in CatholicLand. One thing I remember way back in the day in Oakland was that directors announcing the song to be sung often took the liberty of verbally contextualizing “why” that song was going to be sung, or simply a mini-homily. I have to assume or hope that practice has gone the way of the 8 Track Tape.
Anyway, as my schola (in its 22nd year) is greying, for every new member we lose about two to health or retirement issues (moving) and such. So, I’ve started to re-tool the overall thrust of choral repertoire towards SAB. Just got in Kevin Allen’s MOTETS FOR THREE (equal) VOICES which, though I’m full of glee about them, I have to manually transpose them as our organist has impeccably perfect pitch and even if he doesn’t accompany them, he sings them. So if a “B” is on the page but we’re singing it down the fourth on F#, he literally is disabled. I digress.
A big part of the SAB move of course is more than satisfied by Chuck Giffen (and others) wonder Wiki, CPDL. So, I found a number of wonderful motets recently by Gounod. One of those, especially tender, is a setting of “Da pacem, Domine.” (Give peace, O Lord.) We’d been rehearsing it among others for a few weeks and last rehearsal I decided to employ it yesterday.
Our schola is eclectic- we stuff the Meinrad Introit and Communio with hymns that most often resonate with the proper, the Offertory is flexible based upon a number of factors, but yesterday’s was obvious: Christ as both Word and Light. “Da pacem” wouldn’t have made sense there.
So, here’s the deal. I and the rest of the world woke up to the news that the second Japanese hostage by ISIS had been beheaded. I thought “This is getting to be Groundhog Day” (no pun intended) as everyday we wake up to some new horror perpetrated in the name of religion.
So before Mass, I welcomed everyone per usual, normal brief script. But then I told them I was going to uncharacteristically make some prepatory remarks. I then mentioned that as events around the world point to the overwhelming evidence of evil and violence, the choir would be offering the “Da pacem” to God as a choral prayer and in the hope that all victims and martyrs of such malevolence now know God’s peace.
Was I wrong to do that? I’ve been lobbying the pastor lately to brainstorm ways we can minimize or even eliminate extraneous talking and explanation from all “ministers” at Mass, and I make that call, all of maybe 15 seconds before Mass! But it was honest. It was prayer. But is it appropriate now and then to explain one’s intent for programming a piece, particularly if it is in Latin or another tongue?
Be gentle.

Random thoughts and a review of SACRED MUSIC, Winter 2014 Issue

In another thread (over at MSF) I quipped about having to “slog through” two articles on Viennese Masses in the most recent issue of SACRED MUSIC. In any case I did my slogging and save for Dr. Jenny’s article, read it cover to cover just yesterday. There is much to ponder, both in content and as regards intent.
I was surprised and gratified to again hear Prof. Mahrt publicly mention “circumambulated” Introits as a potential betterment of the Entrance Rite that is commonly practiced. His whole article could be easily shared with skeptical celebrants wary of fussy, “traddie” musicians always yammering on about the Benedictine altar and ad orientem. His recollection of one particular Colloquium Mass (I believe Fr. Keyes was celebrant) that reflected the value of a prominent Altar Crucifix even when the OF is celebrated “versus populum” would likely sway a few hearts of non-stolid celebrants.
The article profiling Fr. Louis Boyer was an eye-opener. For non-academics such as myself, the revelations of ritual “sausage making” are of extreme interest. Such detail (not dissimilar to Dobszay’s explication of Bugnini) gives insights by which we now can re-consider “why are we doing this as such?” Boyer’s own internal struggles with the value of the Pauline Missal, on one hand endorsing SC and on the other making this incredible declaration, “What people call liturgy today is little more that this (embalmed cadaver-a reference to the pre-conciliar Low Mass one supposes) same cadaver decomposed.” Yikes! What may be even more frightening is that the “slap-dash” liturgies (of the Dutch?) that were “cobbled together at the last moment by a gang of three) would be now considered “High Church” by comparison to Mass at St.Suburbs.
The articles on the Viennese Mass were informative if a tad anachronistic. What both authors could not resist were suppositions of how abuses in the 17th century among others in regions other than just Wien, automatically bring to mind comparisons to presumably all contemporaneous service music in the 21st century and globally so. There is an undeniable amount of truth in linking such denunciation, but what is overlooked is that the processes of “action/reaction” and “problem/solution” that were in process then are also in process now. Thankfully, as CMAA has a clear ethos centered around the primary and secondary genres of “genuine Roman” music, the default to those makes excursions into “what place does the Viennese Mass” have as a standard of beauty for Masses in this era a brief consideration. Msgr. Schuler’s spirit lives on, but not pervasively so. But to advocate for this model of Mass to be resuscitated, well…..
The article about the very definition and nature of “art” seemed, to me, very sketchy and of dubious value. I’m just going to leave that discussion open to others. It does have some passing interest by a loose connection to the issue of free speech brought to the fore of the news cycle by the recent tragedy. (One digression as I type is the incredulity of the media gleefully exhibiting the cover art for the emerging issue of “Charlie Hebdo.” Would they have done that three weeks ago?
Mahrt scores again with his brief and helpful analysis of Factus est repente by Gallus. Goes to the top of the pile for next rehearsals.
I very much appreciate the standards of SACRED MUSIC being maintained at a lofty scholastic level. Perhaps down the road, some enterprising young scholar might apply those rubrics to examining the body of music that is significantly employed not only here in the states, but in their own ways, the inculturated accretions that are routinely and generally excoriated in forums such as this one. There is no doubt that what Benedict predicted about unfettered inculturation would “do” to the “Spirit of the Liturgy” is spot on. However, I’ve yet to see any comprehensive discussion of inculturated musical elements that have been properly vetted and not found wanting. Now that would be interesting reading. Cheers.

Ring dem gongs, but don’t ring dem Sanctus bells!

In the Catholic, Liturgical Music Blogosphere there’s been a great deal of attention and amusement over a skit recently shown on the comedy show Saturday Night Live (NBC.) As it happens its satirical edge cut a little too close to the bone for many liturgy geeks on both sides of the worship wars, demonstrating that, no matter where your heart lies regarding ars celebrandi, contemporaneous Christian worship has finally devolved into literally desperate and disparate banality, hucksterism and meaningless gesticulations. And, as it seems, “our” reaction to the mockery that implies a total loss of respect, reverence and affection for centuries’ of noble and enriched rituals is an impotent resignation to the vapid, vacant mentality of “going through the motions.”

Last night I was channel surfing after a grandson’s Winter Concert, and happened upon the remaining moments of a series on PBS-

SACRED JOURNEYS WITH BRUCE FEILER takes viewers on some of the most celebrated, challenging and spectacular religious pilgrimages on earth. In this landmark six-part series, we travel with American pilgrims looking to transform their lives as they visit places deeply meaningful to their faith. And our cameras gain privileged access to places rarely seen by viewers before.

A pilgrimage at its core is a gesture of action. Pilgrims feel a deeper connection to their faith. They feel closer to God. In a world in which more and more things are digital and ephemeral, a sacred journey gives the pilgrim the chance to experience something real.
Pilgrimage today is more alive than ever before. But you can’t experience its wonders unless you go.

The profoundly striking difference between what I observed in those few moments and the SNL skit centers upon the absolutely sincere and total acceptance of virtually all aspects, great and small, of the American pilgrims for the arcane and ineffable protocols and actions of specific non-Christians religious practices, I believe in this case (Dec.15 airing) that were Buddhist. The producers ensure that the excerpts show not only the profound reverence of Buddhist believers and practicioners, but also how powerful these “other” liturgies have upon modern American pilgrims.

Hopefully (if you’ve read this far) you know where I’m going with this. I cannot compute how, on one hand, a large portion of Catholic professionals and faithful, show such disdain and revulsion for our own venerable rites to the point of mockery like SNL of the affects of the red shoes of Papa Ratzi or the Cappa Magna of Cdl. Burke (what our friend Paul Inwood recently caricatured as “prissy,”) and on the other hand, those same intellects and we ever-so-tolerant Americans practically fawn and stumble over ourselves envying and emulating the worship cultures of “others.” Those “others” often include our own: millions dedicated to devotional missions to venerate apparitions of the BVM at Gaudalupe or Lourdes, the popular sacral customs such as Dias de los Muertos which I just personally witnessed as not being confined to early November as I saw families decorating Christmas trees and holding picnics at the gravesites of relatives in a Long Beach RC cemetary.

But, if a soulful seeker delve into traditional catholic traditions to the point of arguing for the evangelical witness to Christ that is most evidently, obviously present in the Solemn High Mass or Requiem, friends who don’t share this zeal are loathe to accept its credibility, its relevance, its anachronisms as having any intrinsic value or merit in guiding the flocks to transcendent, authentic worship experiences. We are, after all, “thinking Catholics,” endowed with all the tools to set up our own alternate magisteriums and regimes that call into question any and all aspects of institutional Catholicism.
I mean to say, didn’t even a Christopher Hitchens once declare that were he a believer, he’d opt for the high church “prissiness” of Anglo/Catholic liturgy?

In this little essay, I once again reiterate calling into question the very necessity of offensively-intended criticism that wishes to literally decimate the existence of what some claim are “former” rituals, AND the offensive and reactionary claims that the TLM is the sole salvation that, like the little engine that could, re-establish authentic Christianity to its muscular prominence again in the First World and thus save civilization. If we all so concerned with the meaning and effect of our corporate worship can acknowledge the intensity of the religious devotion of other traditions, and also languish or abandon “microwave” instant liturgy in St. Suburban’s, can’t we remember that within one of our own great prayers, the Anima Christi, we beg the Lord to inebriate us within the very language and measure of our prayer and praise. There is vitality aplenty in both forms of the Roman Catholic Mass. Arguing over that reality displays not only a deeply flawed mindset, but a hypocrisy that we would never display in the presence of another worship culture. Unless, of course, we behave like Westboro Baptist parishioners, who now number about forty people.

It’s certainly not a job or adventure. Maybe a calling…

These thoughts have weighed heavily on my mind for years, particularly since I’ve hitched my philosophical wagon to CMAA. However, what follows may affirm the suspicions that I’ve remained a stealth outlier since my joining up. Well, to thy own self….

*Future DM’s who wish to be effective will have to commit to being both multi-dimensional in their philosophies regarding sacred and liturgical music AND in their personal musical skill sets. This doesn’t mean some sort of dilineation between the DM as “guitarist….organist….pianist…..solo vocalist……choir master……schola master…..etc.” This means that the functionally successful DM will have a thorough understanding of the modus operandi of “all of the above” and be able to implement, encourage and further the development of their cohorts’ skill sets.

*Future DM’s who wish to further the re-alignment of solid liturgical praxis in both ideal and hostile environs will have to develope the best charismatic aspects of their communication skills in order to represent all the values that the traditions, documents and (Lord help us) spirit of the “times” to clerics, other church functionaries, their own staff and personnel, and the Faithful aggregate and individual. Being a DM who will effect growth and positive reformation will preclude those who prefer to sit on fences, prefer confrontation and combat over long-haul collaboration, collegiality, consensus and sometimes compromise.

*Future DM’s must, despite any mis-connotations of above statements, hold and defend, and when asked, identify, core convictions to which they personally adhere, and have the persuasive skills to defend those without causing defensive reactions and any potential divisiveness. They must seize opportunities and then risk (to a calculated degree) some personal capital in order to influence small to seismic shifts in a parish’s liturgical scenario. This basically means that a DM must understand the Church’s traditions in the macro-sense, know them as intimately as possible, and then advocate for them by whatever means and ways at any and every opportunity.

*Future DM’s must accept that cultural infusion is actually a traditional and normative aspect that complicates, at first, then confuses, then complicates by accretion the “purity” of the liturgical processes in any given parish/cathedral scenario. How that will affect the DM’s effectiveness will depend upon circumstances more often out of the DM’s control and certainly in relationship, fealty and humility to the disciplines that authorities and the Church traditions and magisterial documents articulate, either by law or fiat.

That’s enough for now. Think away or not. But, we must face the reality that though we are all equal in God’s eyes at conception, we are not all equally gifted, and the times? They’re still a-changin’ and we shouldn’t have any expectation that such temporal concerns will be eventually excised from consideration when we discuss how we choose to instrumentally worship the Creator of all.