|Solemn Procession in Saint Peter's Basilica|
"In olden days, a glimpse of stocking
was looked on as something shocking,
Now goodness knows, anything goes !"
(Cole Porter "Anything Goes" 1934)
Tomorrow in Australia we will be celebrating the Feast of Saint Mary of the Cross Mackillop the co-Founder of the Sisters of Saint Joseph. To mark the occasion in our Parish there will be a whole of School Mass.This will bring a total of around 600 Students from Kindergarten to Year 6 of Primary School into the large fan-shaped Church, together with 60 or so daily Mass goers who are normally there.
For Holy Mass.
Experience has led me to dread these occasions. Why?
I love the Mass. I love children ( just as well - I was a child once and I have three grown children and 7 delightful grandchildren). And I know that the Celebrant is a holy, devout and committed young Priest.What could possibly go wrong?
Have you ever watched a movie , say a love story with the soundtrack from a cartoon - NO? I wonder why that is? Or perhaps a movie about noble ideals and courage with soundtrack from a slapstick comedy? -Of course not! Because the Producers and Directors of Movies want them to work well, they marry the soundtrack to the mood, intention and action of the movie. They know well that the soundtrack will immensely amplify the effectiveness of the visuals, of the script and of the acting. The soundtrack is not an optional extra , it is integral to the whole production.
And there is the rub.
The music. Enter the Schoolteachers.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Of course it might not help with the consideration of Music, but the picture below , taken at another recent School Mass might just give you a whiff of the likely problem.
THE SLIDE ANNOUNCES "SONG OF PRAISE" BUT LOOK WHO IS BEING PRAISED.......????
The Schoolteachers take over the music for School Masses . No I should not say "for" but rather "at"School Masses. For with the exception of the occasional use of the standard response melodies now in use throughout most of Australia, the " music" used is not truly " for Mass".Mind you they would think that it is, and the local Catholic Education Office would back them up.
Now, I am sure that many of my readers are well-formed Catholics who, will say : " But the Priest must take control", but not every Priest is free to do so. With a senior the Parish Priest in charge and totally in harmony with the the happy-clappies, tomorrow's Celebrant is in no position to take effective action.
But that is only a measure of how the entire concept of "Sacred Music" is lost on these people who are wholly ignorant of the Liturgy and of the concept of the Sense of the Sacred.
And so it blares out wimpy, whingeing, whining, simpering American or Americanised "Worship" Songs. As long as the kiddies' feet are tapping or their heads are swaying or nodding, or they are able to double-clap it must be great -Eh? Well, to tell you the truth Miss "X" and Mrs "Y" ....NO!
But how can one be so sure that these people are right off the track in matters Liturgical?
It is instructive to watch the key operatives come in before Mass - they talk to one another in loud voices as if they were in the Playground. They tender no acts of reverence toward the Blessed Sacrament or the Altar.Next come their colleagues - more Misses and Mrs., and a couple of Misters with their hundreds of young charges.Only one of the Classes is instructed to attend to the Tabernacle and actually genuflect. The other Classes? Well, they file in with very great attention on the part of the Teachers to who sits next to whom - minimising undesirable interactions. But total ignorance of the Divine Presence or of the Sacred Altar is the rule.
Now , would you expect that such people would know, dare we wonder....care, about the meaning and the substance and form of the Sacred Liturgy?Well the music they select rather quickly confirms our worst suspicions. A hideous grab bag of "Songs" comes forward , they are sung by screeching little soloists - who seem to enjoy special favour, or by the whole student body despite whatever might be happening in the Liturgy.The Songs are trivial sentimental banalities usually bearing no true relationship to the texts of the Liturgy or the portion of the Liturgy being celebrated. Then there come the good ole' slap up jamboree pieces like the hateful" HAR-LAY, HAR-LAY , HAR-LAY, HAR-LAY LOO OO YAR" accompanied by the mandatory double clap repeated ad nauseam.
Sacred? Pardon? What is that?
I have a great respect for the ability of young children to pick-up on what is going on around them, and to realise the nature of music especially. They know what is intended for fun and they know well what is intended to be important , even solemn. They know. But if their teachers feed them foot tappin', hand clappin' trash, then that is how they will come to identify the Mass - just another entertainment or distraction . And within a few short years they will see that they can get far better entertainment/ distraction elsewhere. Then they will vote with their feet and stop coming to Mass. Please do not say "It is not so". Look around you - see the hundreds of Students at School Masses and then on Sundays, the tens of High School students.
This is an exercise designed to FAIL.Our children are being betrayed, the Church is being betrayed , but most of all Jesus Christ Our Lord and Saviour is being betrayed.
Dumbing down does not work. Children need to be challenged, to be drawn out ( the literal meaning of "education" comes from the Latin to "lead out"). A proper integrated suite of true sacred music coupled with proper instruction in the significance of the parts of the Mass, the Sacred Vessels, the Vestments, the role of the Priest and the AWESOME WONDER of the Blessed Sacrament would radically transform the situation. And it would no doubt transform the Teachers as well.
If you are interested in the Liturgy and Sacred Music more than the particular situation I am confronted with , I strongly recommend that you take the time to read the following:http://musicasacra.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/SacredMusic_ArchbishopSample.pdf