Thursday, February 21, 2013

Musical legacy of the Holy Father

Jeffrey Tucker, "Pope Benedict XVI’s Musical Legacy" (Crisis magazine, February 12, 2013). Excerpt:
We are not out of the woods yet but the progress is very much in evidence. The future is clear. Chant will again be the universal music of the Roman Rite. New compositions will be inspired by it. It will have first place in the liturgy. Music appropriate to the liturgy will follow its inspiration.

What I find most impressive is the method that the pope used to achieve this. It was through inspiration and not imposition. For this reason, this change is fundamental and lasting. Mark my words: chant will come to a parish near you. We can thank Benedict XVI for his wisdom and foresight in achieving what most people thought was impossible.

As he has understood, the musical question is only superficially about style. The real substance of the question concerns what elevates the text and reflects the liturgical purpose of glorifying God. In the long run, there can be no separation between the Roman Rite and the music that is native to it. If that point seems obvious now, it is only because the papacy of Benedict XVI made it so.


Ralph Roister-Doister


Everything's coming up roses. Let's have another cup of coffee, and let's have another piece of pie. Every day in every way, things are getting better and better. I've got rhythm, I've got music, who could ask for anything more?

Pass me another snort of that Neo-Cath nitrous oxide, Jeffrey, I'm totally blissed out. I haven't felt this good since the guys in the frat house put Ecstasy in my Skittles: taste the rainbow, man!! Where's my laughing Jesus poster at?

Inspiration instead of imposition -- what a brilliant stroke. It has worked so well in so many areas of governance. Let us inspire homosexual priests to not molest altar boys. Let us inspire bishops to give up their passive-aggressive "let it die on the vine" strategery toward the motu proprio. Let us inspire Novus Ordo masters of ceremonies to dispense with jokes and snappy patter and distribute communion without the assistance of 1001 EMHCs. And let us inspire our choirmasters and music directors to drop their reams of elevator music in the dumpster and commence chanting!

Yep, that should do it!

By the way, I do not mark the crucial word "gregorian" in the sentence "Mark my words: chant will come to a parish near you." -- but still, I'm sure there will be ululations of some sort!



"What I find most impressive is the method that the pope used to achieve this. It was through inspiration and not imposition. For this reason, this change is fundamental and lasting."

Is this to suggest that legislation does not change hearts and cannot be lasting? This is a terrible misunderstanding of law. How about a both/and strategy? By the way, there are many who need legislation because they are unable, for whatever reason, to be "inspired" by the pope's actions.

Pertinacious Papist


Brilliant, Ralph. QV also hit on the irony of celebrating "inspiration" as opposed to "imposition," precisely what we are lacking today. What we need is authoritative governance. We don't have it. What we have is the moral equivalent of Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai with the "Ten Suggestions" ... WITH added "alternative options."

Sam Schmitt


As I recall, Jeffrey used to think just like Ralph. But now he's too busy teaching people chant, organizing conferences, writing articles, publishing books - in other words he's actually DOING SOMETHING to help the situation instead of grousing about it. If you want to change the way the pope operates, write him a letter, or pray. But I just can't see how complaining to the whole wide world in the comboxes helps anyone or anything to get better.

So you're saying that the pope "compelling" people to sing chant and celebrate in Latin will work? That he can somehow force bishops and pastors to reduce the number of EMHCs or stop changing the words of the mass? Welcome to Fantasy Island my friend.

I am not Spartacus


Dear Ralph. So many of your posts illuminate like the welder's arc and yet at the same time they are suffused with a deadly serious humor that is hysterically funny.

YOU ARE AN ABSOLUTE BLAST TO READ, RALPH and my one complaint is you do not write often enough



Sam may have a point when it comes to incremental shifts in the right direction. I think if many fans of the TLM would examine how they came to their own love for it, they would see that it didn't happen overnight but through incremental steps, partial insights, slowly but surely.

I admit that the problem to begin with was lack of "governance," as PP puts it, when the horses were all allowed out of the barn after Vatican II and it became nearly impossible to round them up again.

GIVEN the disaster of a feckless hierarchy for the last half-century or more, however, it may be that (short of a major counter-revolution spearheaded by a strong new pontificate) the only way forward is by quasi-"Fabian" increments.

Tucker has been doing some good work, certainly, and this has been noted by PP in his blog (just google "Pertinacious Papist + Tucker"). But some controversy has surrounded Tucker over his affiliation with the Austro-Libertarian socio-economic movement, including his view that "gay adoption" should be resolved through laissez-faire. Granted, these are not liturgical questions, but they to raise questions relevant to how he understands the relationship between his Catholicism (including the tradition of pontifical social teaching) and his view of the world.

Ralph Roister-Doister


"If you want to change the way the pope operates, write him a letter, or pray."

Yes, I will write a letter to the pope. That will surely "If you want to change the way the pope operates, write him a letter, or pray."

Yes, I will write a letter to the pope. That will surely INSPIRE him. Thank you for welcoming me to Fantasy Island, Sam. It is obvious that you have been here a long time.

Robert Allen


That's right, every single one of those recalcitrant music directors along with their choirs and organists should have been threatened with excommunication. Give 'em Hell Benny! There's not a dime's worth of moral difference between them and sexually abusive priests or disobedient bishops. Why waste time reasoning with people when the iron fist solves all administrative problems?

Anonymous Bosch


Methinks thou protestest to loudly, Mr. Allen.

So you'd rather redefine as "Catholic" the post-conciliar disaster of sacramentalized neo-paganism (including pederast priests and bishops?) and excommunicate a fraternity of priests whose only disobedience is refusal to embrace this disaster and insistence on adhering unflinchingly to the faith and morals of Pope St. Pius X?

Ralph Roister-Doister


"That's right, every single one of those recalcitrant music directors along with their choirs and organists should have been threatened with excommunication."

I like the cut of your jib, Allen, old sock! But I was thinking of something more along this line:

PASTOR: Mr Noodlington, you have been a music director at my parish for twenty years now.

Noodlington: Yes indeedy Father.

P: During that time you have emphasized sappy folk rock styled tunes stolen from Sarah MacLachlan's waste basket and featuring confusing, doctrinally ambiguous and sometimes flat out bizarre "sacred" metaphors and sentiments.

N: Er, well, . . .

P: As well as hymns of protestant origin, thereby bringing oddities of heretical expression into the middle of the Catholic Mass

N: Well, the GIRM for the Novus Ordo says . . .

P: Mr Noodlington, nobody likes sappy folk tunes with up to date lyrics rubbing up against the separated brethren more than I do. I have the complete St Louis Jesuits collection on my MP3 player . . .

N: Right on!

P: . . . However, as your immediate superior and as diocesan shepherd to this parish, I am ordering you to henceforth kindly restrict your musical choices to gregorian chant and traditional hymns of the Catholic faith.

N: The wha?

P: No more "On Eagle's Wings," Mr Noodlington. No more "Amazing Grace" and "In the Garden." No more Marty Haugen procession medleys.

N: Gasp!

P: I understand your distress, and I want to assure you that I value your boundless creativity as music playlist designer almost as much as you do. But the pope is sticking his big nose into our business again, so I have no choice . . .

N: But father, we've always shared a good laugh over his lame-o attempts to "inspire" us in the past!

P: This time he's not being inspirational. This time he's ordering us. That wouldn't mean much either, but he has the bishop feeling the heat too, and the bishop signs your paycheck.

N: Well Father, you have certainly put the squelch on my vibrancy aura. I hope you're satisfied.

P: Just do it Noodlington.

N: Sigh

P: And one more thing, Noodlington

N: Sniffle

P: If I ever hear "Lord of the Dance" in this Church again, I will personally transform your guitar into an article of headwear.

Robert Allen


Your non sequiturs are breathtaking in their audacity. Where did I say ANYTHING about not discipling those who break their religious vows? Where did I advocate excommunicating the SSPX? I said only that it is time for ALL Catholics to get in line behind the Holy See. There is a way of embracing tradition without fostering a schism.

Robert Allen


As for the music directors, it is foolish to resort straightaway to heavy handed measures when persuasion might do the trick, which it did. But, again, in your knee jerk haste to discredit me, you missed that key point

I am not Spartacus


Dear Ralph. Suffering as we are beneath a tsunami of dispiriting news, your Noodlington Post is a life raft of humorous relief. Thank you.

As an occasional glass-half-fuller, I have been grateful that while I have had to several times endure "Soon and very Soon, we are going to see the Lord" (a song favored by the black race who gather in protestant buildings) at the Lil' Licit Liturgy, I never had to listen to The Thrashmen's Surfin' Bird‬, as a Communion Song during the Feast of Pentecost.