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Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Brian John Schuettler

This is the latest development in a series of announcements that demonstrate Pope Benedict's "reform of the reform" is finally proceeding at a relatively steady pace. Perhaps I shall be granted the privelege of living long enough to see the beautiful Mass and Devotions that I grew up with. Deus Gratias!


A good article on the tyranny of the songleader:

Ed Peters

Another time when it helps to be from Missouri. BTW, somebody help me here, the Maestro the pope has re-installed, did he lead the Vatican choirs featured on televised midnight Masses back in the 80/90s? If so, well, Heaven help us. That was awful, simply awful, euro-arty, only-the-elitiest-sophisticates-will-appreciate-it stuff I ever heard. Broke my heart, 1,000,000,000 viewers, year after year, came away thinking Catholic music, whatever history it might have behind it, no longer has any melody or song in it.

tertium quid

Oh, man!
What does this MEAN
for the TAMBOURINE???

Though I know that evenin's empire has returned into sand,
Vanished from my hand,
Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping.
My weariness amazes me, I'm branded on my feet,
I have no one to meet
And the ancient empty street's too dead for dreaming.

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,
I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to.
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you.
--Bob Dylan




There's this one woman in our church choir who INSISTS on playing her tambourine at least once during the 10:30 mass. Bad enough that the tune they perform reminds my of a third-rate Joan Baez concert, but she can't even play the tamborine in time to the song (fer cryin' out loud).


Thank goodness, since we've had a new choir director, the rest of what they sing/play is standard traditional fare.

tertium quid

I know many who love and use the tambourine in Mass... but as much as I love those folks, I say good riddance to the tambourine. Give me that ol' time gregorian chant anyday!

Radical Catholic Mom

Wow. That is truly sad. I love music. All music. I love Chant and I have sung chant. First, I find that people who complain the most usually are not willing to stand up there and do what they complain is not being done. So Tertium Quid, why don't you join your choir since you can do it better. Frankly, Scripture tells us to make a joyful noise unto the Lord. Even King David danced in the streets in his underwear, completely scandalizing all the Isrealites.

Of allllllll the music I have sung in Church, the music that most speaks to my heart during the Liturgy is the bongos, tambourines, guitars, saxaphone that we sing with my Hispanic music group. I love it. I find that while I love to sing traditional Church music, it is usually meant to be sung by professional choirs. I don't like that normal people cannot sing to the songs.


I'd love to join the choir... if we had one! Unfortunately, all we have is the "music ministry," which, of course, is charismatic and focused on two or three people that can play keyboards, guitar, and flute, and a few women who sing like this is a CCM concert instead of a mass.


If indeed we believe that during Mass we are transported (if that's the proper word) to a sacred place, to the hill of Calvary, and the very gates of Heaven, we can only enter into these mysteries for so long by aid of guitar or tambourine. After a while, it just becomes a place with people and music.

Cristina A. Montes

"Frankly, Scripture tells us to make a joyful noise unto the Lord."

Yes, but "joyful" does not necessarily mean wild, raucous, tasteless, or devoid of any sense of the sacred.

"Of allllllll the music I have sung in Church, the music that most speaks to my heart during the Liturgy is the bongos, tambourines, guitars, saxaphone that we sing with my Hispanic music group. I love it. I find that while I love to sing traditional Church music, it is usually meant to be sung by professional choirs. I don't like that normal people cannot sing to the songs."

Well, not really. Not all traditional Church music is hard to sing; it just takes a bit of practice and training. And I literally mean "a bit". My sister, who is a music major, has successfully trained volunteer choirs -- comprised mostly of professionals in non-musical fields who have day jobs and who only have week-ends to practice -- to sing traditional music (with a mixture of some popular but tasteful church songs for communion, and a particularly lively and exuberant but no less tasteful song for the recessional) for the Easter Triduum.

Another point: good Church music (for me, at least) is what helps the congregation pray, not necessarily what the congregation enjoys singing along with.

Mark Brumley

I appreciate the love of music and devotion behind Radical Catholic Mom's comments. But the fact that David danced "in his underwear" doesn't mean we should do the same. Sorry, but it doesn't.

Nor is worship about what supposedly "speaks to my heart". The implication in such a notion is that worship is purely subjective.

"Normal people" can sing traditional music. Traditional music no more requires professional singers than does contemporary music. It depends on the particular piece, which is the case with contemporary music as well.

Teresa Polk

When I read things like this, I am truly thankful for the music at my parish and for our organist/choirmaster and choir. This past Sunday, our music for Mass included "Venite Comedite" by William Byrd, and "Sanctus" from Charles Gounod's "Mass in Memory of St. Joan of Arc." We don't hear much Gregorian chant in Mass, but chant music on CD is piped into our prayer garden. Among the CD's are our priest's recordings from l'Abbaye de Solesmes, and I recently loaned him a 2-CD package from Solesmes that I bought while in France a year ago -- partly realizing that he surely gets tired of hearing the same music over and over again from the prayer garden.

I am very grateful.


I want to echo Mark here.

It would be a distortion to turn scriptures advice - "worship the LORD with cries of gladness; come before him with joyful song" - into - come together as community and make a joyful song unto your own hearts.

Worship isn't about feeling good, it’s about praising the Lord, period. And since God is thrice holy, a holiness far beyond our imagination, it shouldn't be beyond our imagination to speculate on what type of music reveres God, and what type of music desecrates His temple.


On the question of training -- I think many forms of traditional sacred music are potentially easier for unskilled singers than the current crop of contemporary music. Assuming you've got a decent number of people participating, Gregorian Chant is hard for even the worst singers to ruin. Not because it's bad, but because its beauty is somehow robust in a way that eludes especially "music ministries" which tend to emphasize production values over worship.

Ed Peters

mentalguy writes: "Gregorian Chant is hard for even the worst singers to ruin." hmmmm....

my experience (being in large and small scholae, lots fo listening to both pro's and amatuer's, and even doing some recordings) is quite different. I would say "Gregorian Chant is hard for even the best singers to get right."

congregational gregorian chant invariably grinds down to funeral dirge pacing. i think we mistake the good feeling we sense when seeing regular people make an honest effort to engage in truly sacred song, with concluding that the singing was well, or even competely, done. thus, i can say, i like gregorian chant, without saying that i usually quietly cringe at the tonality.

Radical Catholic Mom

Frankly, I do not see how "traditional" music is more "sacred" than "pop" music. Give me a break. Praising God is Praising God. At one point chant was contemporary as was the classical music. I am not saying abolishing traditional music. I am saying that I find it absolutely absurd that "traditional" music is more appropriate for Calvary than somone with a guitar. The Pope is talking about his own persoal preferences and so are all of us.

I am quite aware that Liturgy is not about "feeling good." And on that very point, you all should not be complaining about the quality of music during your liturgies then. God knows darn well that many of us who volunteer without pay every Sunday or every Mass are doing it out of pure love for Him and for His people gathered. And why are choral pieces or chant somehow more "sacred" than "contemporary" pieces.

There is another aspect to this issue and that is a European vision of the Sacred. After working with Catholic Africans and living in Latin America with Indians, their vision of the Sacred is dancing and joyful music. Now, what makes Sacred music "sacred" is the message. Anything praising Jesus Christ is appropriate for Calvary. Dont you think?

tertium quid

I must confess, my preference for Gregorian chant is indeed a personal preference. I agree with you, RCM, that all (well, most) music can be used to praise God and therefore be considered sacred. I think there's room for all kinds of sacred music in the Church...


Catholic Mom, you're in radical disagreement with the Vicar of Christ. Perhaps you might humble yourself and reconsider your position. Here are some articles that might help:


You might also study Ratzinger/Benedict's book, The Spirit of the Liturgy.

Ed Peters

RCM, you don't seem to know what "sacred" itself means, or how something is or is not "sacred". it's kinda hard to discuss "sacred" music unless you know what the word "sacred" means first.

tertium quid

Well, I wouldn't be surprised if Benedict were to say "So we disagree... that's ok." Better yet, maybe the Holy Father doesn't need us to speak for him and humility is something we can recommend for ourselves.

Teresa Polk

"Now, what makes Sacred music "sacred" is the message. Anything praising Jesus Christ is appropriate for Calvary. Dont you think?"

I don't think the message is limited to the words. In fact, the music can reach a deeper part of ourselves than words can reach. Our most primitive, deepest selves, spiritually and psychologically, are not possible to communicate in words. Prayer and worship should reach those places and not only the more cognitive, rational part of ourselves expressed in words. I don't think pop music with guitars and drums belongs in worship because it can actually inhibit and distract people from being able to express the deeper parts of their own souls and from being able to hear what God is saying to the deeper part of themselves.

On the other hand, I don't see anything wrong with having Christian pop music in other contexts, for fun. Even St. Teresa of Avila and her Carmelites used some of that in the sixteenth century -- her own drum is still on display at one of the Carmelite monasteries there. And I don't think the Pope meant to discourage that kind of recreational use of Christian pop music. A distinction needs to be drawn there.


"Better yet, maybe the Holy Father doesn't need us to speak for him and humility is something we can recommend for ourselves."

Excellent point. That's precisely why I recommended those articles, along with his The Spirit of the Liturgy.

As for Benedict simply saying, "So we disagree... that's ok," I'm afraid you've got it wrong. Read The Spirit of the Liturgy.


Yes, Carl's most recent post has reminded me of this:

"Not every kind of music can have a place in Christian worship. It has its standards, and that standard is the Logos. If we want to know whom we are dealing with, the Holy Spirit or the unholy spirit, we have to remember that it is the Holy Spirit who moves us to say, "Jesus is Lord" (1 Cor 12:3). The Holy Spirit leads us to the Logos, and he leads us to a music that serves the Logos as a sign of the sursum corda, the lifting up of the human heart. Does it integrate man by drawing him to what is above, or does it cause his disintegration into formless intoxication or mere sensuality? That is the criterion for a music in harmony with logos, a form of that logiké latreia (reason-able, logos-worthy worship) of which we spoke in the first part of this book."

-The Spirit of the Liturgy, p. 151

Radical Catholic Mom

I have read Pope Benedict's comments, thank you. I respectfully disagree that the music of the people is contrary to Logos.
"RCM, you don't seem to know what "sacred" itself means, or how something is or is not "sacred". it's kinda hard to discuss "sacred" music unless you know what the word "sacred" means first."

I am so glad to have you, Ed Peters, speak so condescendingly to me. We can have a civil discussion about what is appropriate music to have at Liturgy. This is the only come back you had. Give me a break.

I also was not trying to "speak" for the Pope. I was referring to what he has written about music. But, the Pope does not dictate every single thought we have in our lives. While you all and the Pope seem to think that chant and choral pieces are more sacred than a guitar or a bongo that is highly debateable. Nor is this a matter of Faith and Morals so I am allowed to say, "Pope Benedict and Friends, I hear you and I disagree." Meanwhile, I will continue to attend Mass every Sunday and offer the people to praise God with my non-Sacred music. And most of you will continue to attend your Masses and instead of focusing on prayer will criticize all those who volunteer with their imperfect music.

Ed Peters

RCM, your reply reinforces my observation that you are confusing the notion of "sacred" with, well, with lots of things, but broadly with "things having to do with prayer in the liturgy." You need to increase your reading, and to back off your snappish rejoinders to people who have been thinking about these matters, I suspect, for at least as long as you have.

Radical Catholic Mom

"It is better and more profitable to be simple and less well educated but close to God through charity than to appear wise and gifted but to blaspheme the Master." -St. Irenaeus

Cristina A. Montes

I agree it's not just the lyrics that makes sacred music "sacred". "Sacred" refers to a sense of awe and reverence in front of the divine, and there are melodies and rhythms that convey this sentiment more than others.

I must also say that I have heard church music that isn't traditional and yet deserves to be classified as "sacred". One example is "I Will Sing Forever of Your Love, O Lord" by a Filipino Jesuit, Fr. Manoling Francisco, S.J. This song is very lively, very exuberant, and yet still evokes awe in the face of the divine. (Although I have not yet heard it sung with guitars and bongos; only with an organ accompaniment or a capella.)

If guitars and bongos and drums evoke a sense of awe and reverence in the face of the divine, then they would be appropriate for church. For now, I can't imagine how they can evoke a sense of the sacred. I'm open to the idea that in the future, some gifted musician could come up with a guitar and bongo composition that does evoke a sense of the sacred. But still, there is a distinction between what's sacred music and what's not.


Thank you for the quotation from Spirit of the Liturgy. It has made me rethink what I have thought until now, without much profound reflection, that all forms of music are "sacred". Interesting that
"chants" and the repetition of specific 'sounds" are integral to Buddhist/Hindu meditation practices. I understand that some religious orders (female in particular) are practising this kind of New Age meditation. Can this be coincidental with the loss of our own tradition of sacred music? Just musing.

Kevin Cary

Radical Catholic Mom - Great quote. It makes me think of many a professor I have known... However, if you are trying to insinuate that people who have been posting in this argument have been blaspheming God, I kindly disagree with you - that doesn't appear to be the case. Perhaps some posts have been abrupt, even without tact and blunt, but no one has blasphemed the Master. Quotes such as this should never be used to attempt to downplay the importance of an education, of putting your true gifts at the service of God. Both Thomas Aquinas and Therese of Liseaux are Saints, but they took different paths to get there. There is nothing wrong with being wise and gifted and if you let your wisdom and gifts bring you closer to God. I suspect that St. Irenaeus was refering to people who act like many contemporary academics do.

Back to the topic: just to throw my two bits into the debate about what constitutes sacred music and what does not... I compare the 'Lounge music' (drums, throaty voice, bass guitar) that is common to the Sunday Mass at my parish (I often fell as though we should have a gin glass on the piano in order to through a dollar into as we return to our pews during communion), and singing the full Tantum Ergo (all five or six verses - even with those of less talent). The difference is quite striking. We have become so used to things moving quickly, loudly that when things move thus at mass, we think it is normal, if not preferable. There is no sense of contemplation, quiet, silence at most Sunday liturgies no a days, and when there is, it is the lights-low, soothing priest voice, candles, contemplative mass that puts me to sleep!


I think the charismatic movement is largely to blame for this. The charismatic movement tends to emphasize a subjective experience. It's about what you get out of it, not what God requires of us. Remember, we are the servants and God is the Master. It is not the other way around. The Holy Spirit is not like a little puppy that makes us feel good and does tricks on command.

I think if the Vatican and the College of Bishops do something decisive to nip the charismania in the bud, then the CCM trying to pass itself off as sacred music will disappear as well.

The mass has a definite form. Anything not in the rubrics is simply not authorized, period, and defiles the mass. There is not supposed to be any babbling in tongues, "liturgical dance," healing, being "slain in the Spirit," holy rolling, or worldly music inserted into the mass. The GIRM is something simple enough that my 6 year old could follow it, yet it seems to be beyond most American clergy.

We have a real problem here, and it goes beyond the music. Music is just a symptom of the disease. The Church right now is infected with heresy. Quite frankly, this is Montanism all over again. The parallels are frightening. And don't think that some of our "great" theologians can't succumb to it as well. If Tertullian succumbed to it, our generation's best and brightest can too.

We need to root out this heresy and maintain Church unity, according to the Apostolic Tradition and honoring the full Magisterium of the Church. I'm tired of hearing "this will all pass as we give better formation and education to laypeople and seminarians." This should not be tolerated for even one moment in the Church of God.

I'm afraid that we've gotten soft on heresy because we want to be sensitive and not offend people. I suppose if Ss. Nicholas or Augustine or Athanasius took that approach, the Church might be very different today. But would it be for the better? History is always being written and our actions are always in the eye of God who sees all. Christ did not mince words when he rebuked those who offended him. Let us not shy away from that great work of defending the dignity of His Body.


Augustine makes some very observant and interesting points. However, I would have to say that heresy applies to the faith and morals of the Church, which is to say that the liturgical issue of sacred music seems to be outside its jurisdiction. Can someone who knows more about this than me either agree or correct me on this?


Augustine, excellent comments. I believe that you've touched the all too painful truth.

Catholic Mom, you demote the Vicar of Christ's words to the mere status of "comments" rather than the fruit of a lifetime of theological reflection of the very highest order. Wow. Might your openness be the very kind of false humility that Ratzinger/Benedict has often mentioned? Might you have absorbed, at least a bit, the spirit of today's dictatorship of relativism, which tells us that there is no better and worse, but only different?

The Irenaeus quote is great, but do you believe that he was thereby saying that ignorance is a virtue? No, he was condemning supercilious hypocrisy. As Frank Sheed said in his Theology for Beginners:

"I cannot say how often I have been told that some old Irishman saying his rosary is holier than I am, with all my study.... But if the only evidence is that he knows less theology than I, then it is evidence that would convince neither him nor me. It would not convince him, because all those rosary-loving, tabernacle-loving Irishmen I have ever known (and my ancestry is rich with them) were avid for more knowledge of the faith. It does not convince me, because while it is obvious that an ignorant man can be virtuous, it is equally obvious that ignorance is not a virtue; men have been martyred who could not have stated a doctrine of the Church correctly, and martyrdom is the supreme proof of love. Yet with more knowledge of God they would have loved him more still.

"Knowledge serves love - it can turn sour of course and serve pride or conceit and not love, and against this we poor sons of Eve must be on our guard.

"Knowledge does serve love. It serves love in one way by removing misunderstandings which are in the way of love, which at best blunt love's edge a little.... Each new thing learned and meditated about God is a new reason for loving him."

Mark Brumley

"The liturgical issue of sacred music" is outside the Church's jurisdiction? Within whose jurisdiction would it fall, if not the Church's?

There is clearly a subjective element to assessing music. The question is, is the assessment of music entirely subjective? If not, then clearly some forms of music would seem to be more appropriate for certain actions than others.

At the same time, to the extent music is subjective, isn't there a general set of responses, whether culturally derived or innate, that are common to large numbers of people which can make certain forms of music inappropriate for the Liturgy? A nightclub style performance connotes something to large numbers of people. If it didn't, you wouldn't understand what I mean by a "nightclub style performance". Would that be appropriate for, say, Holy Communion?



Perhaps that wasn't worded correctly. What I mean is that liturgical music doesn't seem to be a heretical issue, thus it is outside the jurisdiction of heresy as such. In other words, just because some regards guitars and bongos as appropriate for mass, doesn't necessarily deem them a heretic.

Honestly, I agree that sacred music doesn't include pop. But, I would also claim that silence is more appropriate on Calvary than any type of music.

Teresa Polk

In St. Justin Martyr’s First Apology, written in the middle of the second century, he wrote that Christians were taught to give thanks to the Creator “in hymns and speech.” Second century pagan critic Celsus wrote that the Christian chants were so beautiful that he resented their effect. If only the music of the Mass today had the same impact!

Mark Brumley

Paul, thanks for clarifying. Let me add a point that I hope will also clarify.

While the pastors of the Church have a pastoral concern for truth and how we live, and therefore authority regarding faith and morals, they also have a pastoral concern for how we worship, and therefore authority regarding the sacred Liturgy.

Although the aesthetical dimension of Liturgy has the subjective aspect to which I referred, I don't think we want to deny the objective dimension and say that when it comes to music it is simply a case of "one man's meat is another man's poison".

Dr. Peters raised the question of the nature of the sacred. Surely that's a good starting point to consider what kind of music is appropriate for the sacred Liturgy. We should have a clear notion of the distinction between the sacred and the secular, and clarity about why we have, for instance, sacred space and sacred time, and why we have sacred actions and read sacred texts in the Liturgy. What is the significance of the term "sacred" as applied to the above? Only when one has a clear notion of what it means to call something "sacred" can we begin to address the issue of "sacred" music.

The sacred is that which is "set apart for God". It is distinguished from the secular. What is "sacred" is not necessarily intrinsically different from the secular--although it can be. The point of the "sacred" is that it signifies within creation the transcendent source of creation. The sacred, rightly understood, represents the origin of the secular and rightly orients it. (The emphasis on the transcendent source or origin in the sacred helps avoid overemphasis on the divine within creation--immanence run amok. Such overemphasis tends to divinize creation and things collapse into pantheism or panentheism.)

Thus, we have a "sacred" day--Sunday. That doesn't mean the other days of the week aren't, in a different way, sacred. They are sacred, but by virtue of our "consecrating" the first day of the week. Likewise the "sanctuary" of the Church is sacred. Not because the rest of the Church isn't, but because it represents the origin of the sanctity of the rest of the Church because in the sanctuary occur the sacred actions of the proclamation of the divine Word and the sacred Eucharistic sacrifice, which create the Church and the sacred space of the church building.

Sacred music--as distinct from secular music, which is not bad in itself, and even religious music--is music "set apart" or consecrated for use in the sacred Liturgy. It should be different from the music we hear in the secular world. That doesn't mean we should become aesthetes, but it does mean that the music of the Liturgy should connote the transcendent source of all creation and of the New Creation. It should not confuse the creation with the Creator, the secular and the sacred.

People say, "But surely there is nothing wrong with diddies". Not per se. But when my family gathers together for Thanksgiving Dinner or Christmas Dinner, you can bet we won't eat on paper plates. Why? Because there is something wrong with paper plates? No. But Thanksgiving and Christmas are special days--they are "set apart" from other days of the year. One is a civil acknowledgement of gratitude to God, the other a Holy Day. We treat those days differently. We express the significance of what those days represent by bringing out the good china. We don't treat them like a picnic--as nice as picnics can be.

Similarly, there is nothing wrong per se with "contemporary Christian music" or "praise and worship" music. If people want to have prayer meetings or rallies or other events with "praise and worship" music, fine. It's just using such music in the Liturgy is like eating Christmas dinner off of paper plates. It takes the most sacred activity of the Church--the Liturgy--and makes it sound like everything else.

There's more that could be said here about the hypersubjectivity of the charismatic approach to worship and corresponding problems that the charismatic approach to music in worship brings with it. Also, what may be appropriate or at least less problematic for an individual or a very small group of people isn't necessarily appropriate for large groups or the public worship of the Church. But this post has gotten long enough, so I think I'll stop here.


Perhaps a good reference point for this is the picture of heaven in the Revelation of St. John, which is much like the liturgy. Nobody ever imagines the "Alleluiah" in that setting as sung with guitars and bongos. It wouldn't be fitting. The Mass should give people a sense of what eternity with God is like, in keeping with the similarities between the liturgy and the heavenly scene in Revelation.

As for the difficulties in having the congregation sing chant, I don't know that this is necessary to what the Pope said. There are good, reverent hymns that fit his guidelines. Moreover, in the past, I was for some time a parishioner in an Anglo-Catholic parish where the congregation regularly sang some chants in English. If you use the same melodies each week, for the Sanctus for example, people learn it and sing it beautifully even without much musical training. Chant causes problems when the music is changed frequently so that people are trying to sing chants they do not know. It is perhaps important to keep in mind that Gregorian chant developed among monks who sang it at night when they could not see the neumes, and that it was intended to be music well learned and sung from memory.

Brian John Schuettler

Does anyone here have any confidence that anything in the liturgical music realm will actually change? Any comments yes or no would be interesting.

Mark Brumley

Confidence? Hmm. I think I have a reasonably well-founded hope. Is that confidence? I'm not sure.

What I am confident of is that papal teaching underscoring the importance of sacred music will, at least on the margins, increase the availability of sacred music in the Liturgy because people will be encouraged to think about what transpires at Mass in different terms. Perhaps some of them will even be emboldened to suggest a more traditional approach to liturgical music. We'll see.

I have to say that Ignatius Press' sales of sacred music seem to reflect a growing interest.

Whether B 16 will give rise to an architectonic shift in the celebration of the Liturgy, including the music, is another matter.

Brian John Schuettler

As usual, Mark, your comments are very insightful, appropo to an Ignatian insight.

Cristina A. Montes

"Does anyone here have any confidence that anything in the liturgical music realm will actually change? Any comments yes or no would be interesting."

Well, ten years ago, when a congregation of monks (I forgot which, but I remember that it's a congregation in Spain and their name has the phrase "de Silos" came up with a Gregorian chant album, the album topped the charts. So Gregorian chant is not as unpalatable to the public as some people make it appear to be. (Although the popularity of the Gregorian chant album might have been for the wrong reasons. My dad surmised that people might have bought that Gregorian chant album not for religious reasons because it has the same tranquilizing effect that new age music does. I confess: I myself sometimes listen to that album when I have insomnia due to anxiety. Nevertheless, it shows that Gregorian chant is NOT unpalatable to the public.)


I'm personally considering transferring to the Byzantine Rite because I'm sick of the abuses in the Latin Church. I just don't get the sense that I am participating in heavenly worship when I attend mass at our parish (a Capuchin mission). The music is like something that came out of a hippie retreat, there is not a censer to be found anywhere, basically, it has been stripped of every mark of Catholic worship, save the Eucharist, which is distributed by no fewer than seven lay ministers besides the celebrant, for a typical attendance of no more than 150 or so people. The homilies are largely culled from current events and often have very little to do with the readings. I really feel like I am at a Methodist service, not a Catholic mass.

I used to worship in a Slavonic OCA church and then at the ROCOR chancery, so I am very comfortable with Byzantine worship and Church Slavonic. So it seems to make sense for me to jump ship to one of the two Byzantine Catholic churches in the area. I'm surprised there isn't already a mass exodus of orthodox Catholics out of the Latin rite churches. Perhaps language is a barrier. If they ever adopt a vernacular liturgy, I think that would spell the end of the Latin Rite, at least in North America. It's ridiculous that you have Catholics that have the full tradition and teaching of the Church, have Christ really present in the Eucharist, and yet want to transform the Church into "COGIC + Marian apparitions" or adopt the liberal theology of the new age mainline Protestants (ECUSA, ELCA, UMC, UCC, and the like).


Augustine, I'm considering SSPX. What do you think? Also, I'd appreciate any materials you might direct me to about the Byzantine Rite.


I really don't know of any good books, but a Google search for "Byzantine Catholic" or "Greek Catholic" would probably be a good place to start.

Most of the sui juris rites are ethnic. Even though they may be made up of people who don't speak Ukrainian or Rusyn or Arabic at home anymore, they are familiar with the language used in the Mass because they've been around it likely since childhood. I studied Russian for five years and also some Arabic, Hebrew, and Aramaic, so I've not had any real difficulty in attending Masses in Church Slavonic, Arabic, or Syriac. I was absolutely lost in the Greek, however, and if you are not familiar with a Slavic or Semitic language, you will probably be very lost, too, and it might not help you too much to attend such a mass because it will be a distraction to you. A lot of the customs are different. Children receive confirmation (chrismation) and first Communion immediately after baptism. Confession is usually held before vespers on Saturday night and briefly before Sunday Mass for those that missed vespers. Depending on the church building, there may or may not be pews. If there are not, you are expected to stand for the whole Liturgy, which tends to last about twice as long as a typical Latin Rite Mass. There will be seats along the wall for the elderly and infirm, but most everyone will be standing (unless there are pews, which a lot of the more newly-built churches will have). Also, the entire Liturgy is chanted or sung and there are lots of litanies and processions. You'll notice people crossing themselves A LOT (at every mention of the Trinity), and they hold their fingers a certain way to emphasise the two natures of Christ and the three persons of the Trinity, and they go right-to-left, not left-to-right.

I imagine probably has some resources or information. If I'm not mistaken, Fr. Mitch Pacwa is or was a Maronite. And come to think of it, he's a Jesuit, so maybe he's written something on the subject and I wouldn't be surprised if it was published by Ignatius.

But, as they say, "Google's your friend." God bless you, and remember to pray. You tend to get God's attention more when you talk to Him. :)


Thanks A. Would you mind telling us a bit more about your background? Your knowledge is impressive.

Cristina A. Montes

Once I told a priest that I find it hard to concentrate at mass at a particular church (which, unfortunately, was the most convenient church to go to during that time) because of the banal or highly politicized homilies, uninspiring church architecture and music, and the resulting behavior of the rest of the congregation (chit-chatting during the mass, and someone even insisting on bringing a pet dog along and allowing the animal to roam around and make messes.) The priest gave me advice that has helped me a lot: see all of these distractions as the insults and jeers at Calvary. This advice made me overcome my reluctance to go to mass because it made me want to console Christ at the foot of the Cross amid all the jeering and insults. Perhaps this advice will help others as well. :)


VERY helpful advice, Cristina. Many thanks. Let me return the favor: If you haven't already, read Fulton Sheen's Life of Christ. It's full of this kind of depth.

Radical Catholic Mom

Wow! Jesus Christ Body Blood Soul Divinity is present at every Mass. Jesus Christ is present in The Word Itself, and you all are distracted?!

How sad. I guess from this discussion that I am one of the few that can worship Him easily in a Liturgy with chant, or a Liturgy of contemporary music.

I only hear your frustration, anger, resentment, despair. Where is your Christian Joy? I guess I am more open minded because I am a convert. Maybe it helps that I am just so thankful Jesus Christ is present in front of me that I don't have time to be bitter.


Catholic Mom, once again you display what appears to be the false humility of openness that Benedict XVI has often spoken of. I suggest that there's absolutely nothing whatsoever radical about this, that in fact it fully accords with today's dictatorship of relativism.

"They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, 'Peace, peace,' when there is no peace."

-Jeremiah 6:14

Cristina A. Montes

RCM is correct in pointing out that the mere fact that Christ is present in the mass is reason enough to pay full attention to it even if the external environment is not conducive to worship. Unfortunately, not everyone has faith as strong as RCM. For that matter, even those who have faith as strong as RCM sometimes have difficult moments (at least I know I've had mine). Christian charity urges us to support and help those who have weak faith. It's good that we're convinced, despite the lack of external stimuli, that Christ is truly present in the mass. This is the ideal situation. The mere fact that we can attend mass is something to be grateful for, no matter how uninspiring the church architecture and the music is. But what about our brothers and sisters who have weak faith? Shouldn't we help them perceive God's presence in the mass? This is the reason why many of us insist that the mass should be celebrated, well, like a mass.

Jackson: thanks for recommending the book. It turns out we have a copy at home. I'll read it. :)

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