Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine addresses hymn texts

The USCCB Committee on Doctrine has offered some help in evaluating hymn lyrics for use in Catholic worship. The paper, “Catholic Hymnody at the Service of the Church” (PDF), lists several kinds of deficiencies that are apparent in the texts of some songs, and gives examples from a few hymns selected out of the 1000 that the committee’s members read.

The bishops’ work takes its model from a 1997 project in which an ad hoc committee led by Abp. Daniel Buechlein examined catechetical materials and described ways in which they were presenting the Catholic faith in a vague, imbalanced, or misleading way. Following the example of that report, the Committee on Doctrine listed these weaknesses in hymns:

  1. Deficiencies in the presentation of eucharistic doctrine
  2. Deficiencies in the presentation of trinitarian doctrine
  3. Deficiencies in the doctrine of God and His relation to humans
  4. A view of the Church that sees her as essentially a human construction
  5. Doctrinally incorrect views of the Jewish people
  6. Incorrect Christian anthropology

Here are some ways that texts fall short in these areas:

  • In eucharistic doctrine, texts that speak of receiving “bread and wine” without expressing that they are changed into the body and blood of Christ
  • In trinitarian doctrine, texts that avoid speaking of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but instead speak of “God”, “Christ”, and “the Spirit”, as though Christ or the Holy Spirit were not also God; as the committee report frankly puts it, this is Arianism
  • In the doctrine of God, expressions that obscure the transcendence of God and seem to make him come into being as a result of human actions
  • In ecclesiology, texts that speak of human beings creating the Church, rather than the Church as God’s creation
  • In relation to the Jewish people, songs that imply falsely that the entire Jewish people rejected Christ, something which the Church does not believe or teach.

The report quotes from thirteen hymns as examples of these defects, including works by Owen Alstott, Mary Louise Bringle, Sydney B. Carter, Ruth Duck, Delores Dufner, Bernadette Farrell, Fred Pratt Green, Marty Haugen (1, 2, 3), Bob Hurd, and Carmen Scialla.

In regard to eucharistic doctrine, the area which the report says had the most common and most serious deficiencies, the report also listed examples of hymns that avoided such errors. While some of them have their own weaknesses of text or music, I’m pleased to see that the committee was in effect confirming among them that the Church’s heritage of Latin hymns is suitable for mainstream parish use:

  • Ave Verum Corpus (Pope Innocent VI, c. 1362)
  • Taste and See (Moore, 1983)
  • Gift of Finest Wheat (Westendorf, 1976)
  • Seed Scattered and Sown (Feiten, 1987)
  • I Am The Bread Of Life (Toolan, 1966)
  • One Bread One Body (Foley, 1978)
  • Eat This Bread (Taize/Batastini, 1984)
  • Look Beyond (Ducote, 1979)
  • At That First Eucharist (Turton, 1881)
  • O Sacrament Most Holy (Udulutsch, based on the Raccolta, 1958)
  • O Salutaris Hostia (Thomas Aquinas, c. 1274)
  • Adoro Te (Thomas Aquinas, c. 1274)
  • At the Lamb’s High Feast (Campbell, based on Ad regias Agni dapes, 1849)

Thanks to the Committee on Doctrine and its chairman, Bp. Kevin Rhoades (Fort Wayne – South Bend) for this helpful contribution to the Church’s liturgical work.

Discovering Langlais

Professor Ann Labounsky, a great interpreter of Langlais and Tournemire, is celebrating her 50th anniversary at Duquesne University by offering her recordings of Jean Langlais as a gift, a collection of performances spanning over 20 years and seven great organs. The blind composer, with whom Dr. Labounsky studied in the 1960s, drew inspirations from Breton airs, French noels, and of course Gregorian chant.

This performance of the Te Deum from his “Trois paraphrases grégoriennes” (as early as Opus 9!) is from 2009, at the closing Mass of that year’s Sacred Music Colloquium, in the Madonna della Strada chapel at Loyola Chicago University:

New from CMAA: Método completo de canto gregoriano

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The newest book from CMAA is a companion to one that we have carried for years. Alongside the English edition of Dom Gregorio Suñol’s chant instruction book Gregorian Chant according to the Solesmes Method, we now have the same book in the original language, Spanish, as Método completo de canto gregoriano.

Dom Suñol, a monk of the abbey at Montserrat and the president of the Pontifical Academy of Sacred Music in Rome, wrote his chant teaching book in 1905, and for years it was expanded in numerous editions and translated into several languages. This new offering is a reprint of the eighth Spanish edition, from 1943.

The book is a thorough and methodical presentation based on the Solesmes method, which he praised in these words:

My teaching, I can say, is not mine. The school of Solesmes has served the Church so magnificently, restoring her chant to her, authentic, beautiful, serious, and suited to her holiness; it burst forth one day by inspiration of the Holy Spirit from the hearts of her most enlightened sons.

Black Friday Savings on CMAA reprint books

Our partner for print-on-demand books, Lulu, is offering 30% off purchases made this weekend: that is, from November 27 to 30, 2020, so a lot of CMAA’s reprint editions will be available at a great price; just use the coupon code BFCM30 at Lulu’s checkout:

Chant editions:

Music instruction

More books about Gregorian Chant

We even have one more instructional book coming out soon! I’ll announce it as soon as I inspect the proof copy that’s in the mail on its way to me, but I wanted to give you this note about the ones already available.

Sacred Treasures of Christmas Now in Stock!

AVAILABLE NOW FOR IMMEDIATE SHIPPING at the CMAA ONLINE SHOP.

SACRED TREASURES OF CHRISTMAS is a new recording from the boys of the London Oratory Schola, directed by Charles Cole. The Schola is one of the top boys’ choirs in the world and sings at the London Oratory. The boys, aged 8-18, are all pupils at The London Oratory School.

The Choir’s Director, Charles Cole said: “We are delighted to present our newest album which we recorded earlier this year. ‘Sacred Treasures of Christmas’ focuses on some of the most iconic polyphonic works written for the Christmas liturgy. These motets, rendered so beautifully by the greatest masters of the Renaissance, capture the awe, mystery and effusive joy of the Nativity.”

Sacred Treasures of Christmas, a sequence of music for Christmas, Epiphany and Candlemas, continues the ‘Sacred Treasures’ series, an anthology of sacred repertoire drawn from the liturgical motets which the boys sing at the London Oratory.

Order now for immediate shipment.

For more information, see our earlier post.

Sacred Music Saturdays – SMIA

The Sacred Music Institute of America is offering a series of lectures called Sacred Music Saturdays.

Information about the lecture this weekend:

“Gregorian Chant in the Liturgy” by Dr. William Mahrt

The word sacred means set aside, in this case reserved for the particular purpose of Divine Worship. Pope St. Pius X defined three characteristics of liturgical music, sacred, beautiful, and universal. Music is sacred which sets the texts prescribed by the liturgy, such as processional texts, scripture lessons, meditation chants, hymns of praise and petition and expression of belief.

Their musical style conveys the sense of the action which they accompany. Music is sacred which unites a diverse congregation in a unity joining their voices and lifting their hearts to a common purpose.

Sacred music must be beautiful, because it addresses almighty God, who is the ultimate Beauty. The beauty of sacred music creates an experience of the holiness of God, a foretaste of the Beatific Vision of God, which is the end of each human life. Sacred music thus has a transcendent purpose, which is expressed in transcendent styles. Sacred music is universal when it is received and understood by the body of worshipers as expressing the order and purpose in the liturgy, when it is experienced as being our own, when we sing it by heart, from our very own being.

Register now to receive lecture access and a link for a live Question & Answer session with Dr. Mahrt on Saturday, 21 November.

REGISTER NOW

The Sacred Music Institute of America also offers other courses such as:

Chanting the Liturgy: Musical Enrichment for Priests and Deacons

As part of its ongoing commitment to promoting quality sacred music in every parish, the Sacred Music Institute of America LLC is excited to announce its new individualized training opportunities for priests and deacons.  This program will provide flexible, personalized, and comprehensive training in chanting the liturgy from the basics of vocal production; it focuses on the celebrant’s chants in the Roman Missal.   It is inspired by the thorough musical curriculum offered at the Pontifical College Josephinum, where the Institute’s founder, Dr. Jason Keefer, is Director and Assistant Professor of Sacred Music.

The Institute’s training opportunities for clergy include:

  • Online seminars on vocal technique, reading Gregorian and modern notation, Church documents pertaining to music, clergy/musician collaboration, music selection and planning, and liturgical chant.  Watch the lectures on your own schedule!
  • One-on-one online vocal coaching with our experienced faculty of liturgical musicians.  Work on vocal technique and presentation through exercises and study of specific chants.  These sessions are fully customizable to your needs and abilities. Coaching is also available on more challenging repertoire such as the Gospel readings and the Exsultet.  Five, ten, and fifteen lesson packages are available.
  • Optional courses on the history of sacred music, music theory, and intensive Gregorian chant study.

While the Church’s documents on music in the liturgy place a strong emphasis on the role of the clergy in singing the liturgy, not every priest or deacon has the background or training to feel self-assured doing so.  The Institute seeks to foster chanted Masses in parishes throughout the country by helping priests and deacons to improve their skills and confidence in chanting.  This training is hand-tailored to your specific needs, flexible to accommodate your busy schedule, and private—you will work directly with your vocal coach and also have access to pre-recorded lectures by our dedicated and knowledgeable faculty.

To learn more about all of the Sacred Music Institute’s offerings, including monthly seminars and certification programs for music directors, organists, choir directors, and cantors, please visit https://www.sacredmusicinstitute.org/chanting-the-liturgy-priests-deacon or call 614.395.7783.