Saturday, February 23, 2013

Statement on Liturgical Workshop in Bend, OR

The Board of the Society of St. Gregory the Great is disappointed to note the following in the “Parish News” section of the Diocesan Chronicle:

Catholic Composer, author, and workshop presenter David Haas will present an evening concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 8 and liturgy workshop Saturday, March 9 from 8:30-2:30 at St. Francis Church in Bend [Oregon]. A few of Haas’ well known songs are “You Are Mine,” “Blest Are They,” and “We Will Rise Again.”

Although it is certainly legitimate for the faithful to invite a composer/performer such as David Haas to present a concert if they so desire, there are other problems to be addressed with the entire scenario.

First, there are Church regulations about concerts in churches. Although the Society does not agree that music composed by David Haas qualifies as sacred polyphony, it is obviously condoned by our local church leadership, and is used at Mass. However, we do hope that the performers will not be situated in the sanctuary, because such a location is prohibited by the Church documents. In addition, a “suggested donation” is mentioned for those wishing to attend the concert; we hope that this is indeed only a suggestion and not a requirement, as an admission fee to a concert in a church is expressly forbidden by the documents. It is also unfortunate that this concert apparently necessitates the cancellation of the Stations of the Cross – a situations which bring to light the problematic fact that this parish is sponsoring a concert during Lent.

More problematic is the “liturgical workshop” that that is scheduled. We wonder what qualifies the composer of “pop” worship music to conduct such a workshop. It does not appear that he truly understands what the Church asks of us with regard to liturgical music and worship, since his music consists primarily of what one would consider “hymns”, or perhaps more correctly “songs”.  We note that the “new translation” implemented in Advent of 2011 brought us a new edition of the Roman Missal which includes more music than any other previous edition, and the form of this music is not hymns, but Gregorian chant antiphons and psalmody.

With the introduction of the new translation, the intent of the bishops was clearly to induce the priests and the faithful to “sing the Mass”, rather than to “sing AT Mass”, and they did not have “hymns” in mind. Prior to the implementation of the new translation, the USCCB’s website promotion of the changes stated (emphases added):

[The Church] has been blessed with this opportunity to deepen its understandingof the Sacred Liturgy, and to appreciate its meaning and importance in our lives… [T]he parish community should be catechized to receive the new translation.  Musicians and parishioners alike should soon be learning the various new and revised musical settings of the Order of Mass.

During the calendar year 2011, the Society of St. Gregory the Great attempted to bring the idea of “singing the Mass” to our parishes by offering a liturgical workshop based on Mystical Body, Mystical Voice presentation developed by Fr. Douglas Martis and Mr. Christopher Carstens of The Liturgical Institute in Chicago. The workshop was conducted in two locations in our diocese, but went no further, for reasons which will not be addressed here.

It is the Society’s mission to promote divine worship in accordance with the Supreme Magisterium of the Church. We believe that this is also the intent of the USCCB in the development and attempted implementation of the new translation of the Roman Missal. However, without the leadership and direction of the local bishop, it is unlikely that there would be uniform changes to the liturgical music used in any diocese. Across the US, there have been some bishops who have taken action toward catechizing the faithful about the music: Bishop Thomas Olmsted in the Diocese of Phoenix; Bishop Joseph B. McFadden of the Diocese of Harrisburg; and Bishop Alexander Sample of the Diocese of Marquette (and, please God, he may bring new life to liturgical reform in the Archdiocese of Portland when he takes on his new assignment!).  None of these bishops offered a workshop by David Haas, as far as we are aware! Instead, they used more authoritative resources and more liturgically appropriate programs.

The Society of St. Gregory the Great remains steadfast in its commitment to the promotion of reverence and beauty in the Mass. We sincerely hope that the faithful of our diocese will soon experience liturgical catechesis that is more likely to foster knowledge and love of our Catholic tradition and identity. We stand ready to help in any effort to implement more liturgically correct music in the Mass.

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