Sunday, April 17, 2011

...that I knew nothing about liturgical music in College.

This post may catch some of you off guard. This post may even upset some of you, but I feel this needs to be said so that I can come clean with all of you. It’s somewhat of a confession. It also lets you in on my educational journey. I’ll get on with it then.

I knew nothing about liturgical music in college. During my junior year I was blessed to have been chosen to serve as peer minister of music. I happen to have some musical abilities and had been in many choirs and church choirs at the time. For some reason this led me to believe that I was qualified to lead music at Mass.

I tell you now, I am not qualified to lead music at Mass. Retreats? Sure. Praise and Worship sessions? Sure. Campfires? Sure. Mass? No, definitely not.

Throughout high school I was part of choir and at my Catholic high school, the choir provided music at Mass. During my 12th grade year our choir changed leadership and our protestant calculus teacher took over the duties of choir director. She was anglican I believe. She was full of faith, full of vibrancy and had a special love for praise and worship music. This is where my interest in Praise and Worship music entered. At first I was hesitant and constantly thinking, “We shouldn’t sing this music, it’s protestant.” At some point I voiced this opinion to one of the teachers at my high school who responded, “So? It speaks about Jesus doesn’t it? It’s Biblical isn’t it? What’s wrong with it?” At the time this answer satisfied me and from there my desire to sing the faith filled ballads grew.

Fast forward to college. At the Campus Ministry Masses where I went to college our choir sang “Catholic Top 40”. You know the songs - On Eagles Wings, You Are Near, One Bread One Body etc. When I was chosen to be the music minister I began to think about “spicing”things up a bit. I decided that I’d add in some praise and worship music because I knew that many people at the campus ministry came from a “Life Teen” background and I knew that “Life Teen” was heavily influenced by praise and worship music. I thought that it would make Mass more inviting and familiar to freshman coming in from “Life Teen” parishes. I also happened to like a lot of PnW songs from my high school experience.

To all of you who I led in song, I apologize. To all of you who questioned my choice of music after I took the music ministry in a new direction, I apologize. I did not know what I was doing.

After I graduated and while I was discerning I came to an appreciation of a few things, namely sacredness and reverence. At the time, I was discerning religious life and the order that seemed to strike me the most was the Benedictine Order. Benedictines are known for (among other things) being contemplatives and for their liturgy. Through spending time with the Benedictine Monks in Mission and the Sisters of St. Walburga I came to an appreciation of chant and polyphony. I began to more fully understand why the Church claims these forms of music as her music. This appreciation grew even more as Jon and I talked and grew closer and has grown even more so in our marriage. Somehow I began to understand how chant and polyphony don’t disrupt the silence that should envelop your soul while at Mass. I began to understand that music at Mass shouldn’t distract you from Christ, it should invite you to focus more precisely on Him who you came to worship.

Last year we were fortunate to go to half a workshop (at my parent’s parish in BC) on Liturgical Music by a UBC Music Grad named Peter Mulholland. We missed the first half which was an overview of Liturgical Music from the beginning of the Church onward. During the second half we learned about what the Popes have said about liturgical music, how it is supposed to be evaluated (how to tell which music is fitting), how liturgical music flows with and out of the liturgy, and we even learned how to chant a bit. It was so incredibly enlightening.

Did you know that the music at Mass should be evaluated by Holiness, Universality and Goodness of Form? Did you know that what the Pope said about liturgical music has been ignored by many Bishops? Did you know that the songs at Mass are supposed to be replacements for the antiphons? Did you know there isn’t really supposed to be a Recessional hymn? Did you know that the Church favors the Organ as the instrument for Mass Music? Did you know that when Readings are chanted there are specific intonations to designate specific statements? Did you know that different readings during Mass have specific chants? How intricate!!! How beautiful!!! How much is being lost in our quick and generic song choices!

Do you know that feeling when you hear the truth? It’s as if you hear Christ’s voice and a light goes on in some room of your soul. That’s what it felt like to discover the beauty of liturgical music in this workshop.

Unfortunately, many people like me have made mistakes (though with good intentions) with Mass music. I can understand that if music sounds nice and if it speaks about Jesus that you could think it’s appropriate for Mass. But if you contrast it with the beautiful music our Church has claimed for herself and pair that with what our Vicar of Christ has said about music, I don’t see how some of the music that is played at Masses today can be accepted.

Mass music is supposed to lift our minds and hearts to God. The Mass is supposed to help us transcend time to meet with Christ himself in the Blessed Sacrament. Our souls should be filled with reverence, solemnity and wonder while we behold Christ at Mass. Doesn’t it seem fitting that the music at mass should be reflective of this?

When I think of playing music with the electric guitar and people dancing around in silliness during Mass as a result of my Music leadership my heart is heavy. I want everyone to learn what I’ve learned. I want all music ministers to know what the Church says. I wish I had bothered to ask, learn, seek, and study what the Church says about Music while I was a music minister. I pray no one was scandalized by the music I chose and sang.

God help me. If only I had more humility. Forgive me for my mistakes!

UIOGD. Sing well, pray well, Christ deserves it.

If you want to know more about liturgical music and read the documents from the Vatican many of them can be found on the Adoremus website.

....why I shouldn't worry about my children's future

For the last couple of weeks I’ve caught the end of the show “The Biggest Loser.” After this show there’s one called “Parenthood.” Last week “Parenthood” looked interesting, so yesterday, I thought I’d stay up and watch an hour of it.

In this episode two parents find out that their daughter (I think she’s supposed to be 16 or 17) has begun having sex with her boyfriend. The girl’s parents find this out in a terrible way when the girl accidentally calls her parents on her iphone by hitting it with her foot during sex. When her parents answered their phone while they were in the car they heard ….something they did not want to hear.

A little later, the girl’s mother confronts her and asks her if she’s having sex with her boyfriend, to which the girl responds, “no, no, no.” A few days later she comes to her mom and says, “Okay yes, we’re having sex.” Her mother responds with a look of shock and begins to ask her if she’s using condoms and “being safe”, if she’s being forced, etc. The girl says she’s using a condom and that she wasn’t being forced, to which her mother responded with more looks of disbelief and nothing else. When her father finds out he avoids her and tells her mother that he doesn’t have anything to say to her. At some point during the show the daughter breaks down and doesn’t understand why she’s being shunned and judged by her father and her mother only says, “we wish that you would have waited”. Her father at some point says, “I don’t ever want you to get hurt.”

This episode at first glance would seem pretty normal for a modern family. As I watched it, I empathised with these people more than I ever have with characters on a television show because I realized that this is the world in which I am parenting my children. I had a few panicked moments of horror saying over and over to myself, “THIS CANNOT, WILL NOT, happen to Clare or Mikey.” I was stuttering in my thoughts with sheer terror at the situation the parents in the show were faced with. I kept thinking, “What would I do? What would I say? How would I react?”

Towards the end of the show the father was talking to his sister (who is a parent of an incredibly rebellious teen who had at that point in the show run away). Of his emotional distance from his daughter he said, “I figured what she needs now is space”, to which his sister responds saying something like “When they think they know better than you and when they push you away that’s when you need to show up, to push harder, to be there. It may be too late for me.” I thought that was great. That’s exactly what a parent needs to do, to show up for their work, to guide their children, to lay down the law and show them how to pull themselves out of the miry clay.

It was strange watching this show as a Catholic parent. I found it odd that the girl’s parents didn’t seem to have any idea of why they were upset by their daughter having pre-marital sex. They also didn’t seem to address what they wanted their daughter to wait for. They merely said, “We wish you would have waited.” These parents seemed ill prepared to talk to their daughter about this situation and the only questions they posed to her were to ask if she was using a condom and if she was being forced. I fear this is the case with many parents today.

Most parents will acknowledge that they are upset about their child losing his or her virgininty, but don’t understand why and don’t know what to say or how to talk to their children. I hope and pray this never happens to us as parents and I feel more and more blessed and hopeful because I know that Jon and I are equipped with Christ’s truth. Thank God for John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. Thank God we have heard the good news and know the freedom that the Church proclaims about human sexuality. God help us when our children hit their teen years (or pre-teen years) and start to feel society’s pressure to have pre-marital sex.

This show just reminded me that we as parents need to pray SO hard for our children. Please pray for us as we struggle to raise up holy souls. Dear God use us in our brokenness and help us to be instruments that bring you glory.

Gah, what a horrible episode. I don’t recommend that show, but I guess I’m glad that watching it stirred up this reflection.