History, Spiritual Reflections, This and That

Give Us Beauty in the Liturgy … PLEASE

This article appeared in Crisis magazine today, and it calls for restoring chant and polyphony in the Liturgy as a way of building up the faithful. Typically, however, you only find this in the extraordinary form of the Mass, which makes use of the 1962, pre-Second Vatican Council missal.

That said, please, please do this if you have it in your power to make it happen where you are.

The importance of good liturgical music (contemporary Christian music does not count or even begin to suffice) cannot be understated. Where my kids often assist at Mass, the music is atrocious. Where I am registered, my pastor is awesome. He actually cares about the salvation of souls and loves Jesus in a remarkable and noticeable way. But the music? The beauty of the liturgy? A well-known Catholic speaker’s wife is a cantor. When she does it, my ears don’t break or my body reflexively cringe. Otherwise, oh boy. If, as the FSSP teaches its seminarians, “In the Mass, everything matters,” it’s clear those in charge of music at my parish haven’t gotten the message.

Why is it that I have to go to a Traditional Latin Mass to find a beautiful, reverently celebrated, sacredly performed Mass? You can’t get truly good liturgy at a regular (aka, novus Ordo, ordinary form) Mass anywhere in southeast Pennsylvania. I would say anywhere that I have seen, except in the most rare, rare instances. At best you get a workaday, ho hum, dial it in Mass. No wonder young people are uninspired by that which is supposed to be worthy of the name “the Divine Liturgy.” There’s nothing beautiful or attractive to capture their attention. You think so-called “praise and worship” music will do it? If it could, it would have. And yet look at the numbers? They’re atrophying.

In any event, resorting to the ancient rite is not a deal breaker, nor is the use of beautiful, traditional liturgical music.

Case in point: My third son, he serves at one of the parishes he attends. He loves serving. I enticed him to the TLM by telling him serving in that form of the Mass is called “the sacred dance” and that he should see it.

Afterward he was less impressed by the serving (which was off that day) than the beauty of it all and the prayers, including the music. He echoed what I told my beloved and late mother-in-law Jean Sus​ after I first attended this Mass for the first time: “Why did they get rid of all those beautiful prayers?”

He was inspired by it. And afterward, he kept asking, “Why did Vatican II do this?” (Mind you, I have never talked smack about the Council to him, not that I recall, anyway.) I explained what had happened during the Second Vatican Council, and why the Council Fathers wanted change (not that they got precisely what they wanted).

His response: “Why couldn’t they have simply changed the language to English and kept the prayers the way they were?” That echoes a conversation I had with a friend over 15 years ago.

I’m not saying, “Make the extraordinary form of the Mass the ordinary form again, and all will be right in the world.” I think it would most definitely, inarguably help if done right (unlike the forced imposition back in 1969 of the ordinary form).

What I am saying is, “Give us its beauty! Give us its reverence. Give us its great homiletics. Give us what makes it great and the perennial institution that it is.”

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