The problem of religious music

It’s been growing for a long time. Too long. People with sense ought to have recognized what was going on and put a halt to it twenty, thirty years ago.

I’m talking about religious music. Not sacred music, mind you, which belongs in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which is God- and Heaven-oriented and which helps to foster a sense of reverence and devotion in the singer and the hearer. Religious music: which has religious themes but whose purpose is to entertain, rather than to inspire, and whose end is the artificial retardation of the spiritual life of the faithful.

Yes, artificial retardation.

The religious music of the day is born of the 1970s coffeehouse movement – that protestant charismatic phenomenon that grew out of gospel music, targeted the younger, pop-rock fans of the day, and gave them a Christ-centered alternative to secular pop that promoted sex, drugs and rock and roll. All well and good in and of itself –

But this sort of music needs to stay in the coffeehouse venue. Its purpose is entertainment. It actually detracts from the Mysteries we celebrate during the Mass, fosters an over-familiarity (too often confused with intimacy) toward God.

Too few people believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist any more. And why not? when we get stuck being “catechized” with such drivel as “I Myself Am the Bread of Life,” or “Let Us Be Bread” – both narcissistic, self-aggrandizing twaddle (not to mention utterly heretical!) – how can we withstand the subtle message that Our Buddy Jesus doesn’t really care how we treat him? just so long as we come and hang out for a while –

at the table (not, notice, the Altar) –

We have fostered generations, now, of immature, self-centered, stupid Christians who don’t know what they believe or Who it is they’re supposed to be worshipping.

It’s all about what the people know how to sing (what? Are they now to stupid to learn new hymns?) and what makes them happy (immature children know what they need in order to grow up to be mature and responsible adults?).

I was in conversation with a priest just last week, who rather exploded over how stupid most Catholics are, any more. And he’s right. And it begins with this music.

7 thoughts on “The problem of religious music

  1. I don’t know that it all began with the music but certainly the day the music died hasn’t helped any. I had to grimace recently when one of the kind of choruses you mention was listed, of all things, in a source as “sacred” music. M-m-m, it may have been written by a priest but “sacred” nah, I don’t think so. Anyway, cheer up. It’s all good motivation to continue praying the novena for our Holy Father as provided by the KoC. The nine days that began on DM Sunday are done but I’m just rolling that prayer into my daily prayers. Esp like the “give him a long life” line.

  2. Dymphna – what shocks me is how carelessly the “dumbness” is fostered by those who ought to know better, and ought to be invested in building us up!

  3. I will not attend a church anymore that plays that drivel. When we attend a NO Mass, it is one with without a choir. The rest of the time we attend a FSSP chapel.

    The people are “stupid” because the shepherds of the church have not done their duty, which is to teach. Simple!

    I spent 9 years in RE trying to teach the faith. When I “retired” the void was filled by the “Roman Protestants” that complained for my entire tenure about the kids needing to have more fun.

    In 9 years, I had approximately 3 kids that knew anything about the Catholic faith. I saw 12th graders who couldn’t even tell you what a sacrament was.

    Now the kids are not only not having fun, they’re not learning anything either. But, back to the original statement about the shepherds. It is the priest’s duty to see that the faith is being taught. Second only to the parents, of course, who by now, are incapable of teaching the faith.

  4. I told my husband that if they played “On Eagle’s Wings” at my funeral I’d sit up in the casket and whack the musicians with my rosary beads!

  5. Someone else once told me the very same thing. Shame getting our loved ones back, even for a moment, can’t be that easy. 😉

    Seriously, though, I agree with you. I really do. I’m working on my funeral program now, since I’m the only one in my family to be Catholic, so far, and I can’t trust anyone else to understand the depth of my commitment to appropriate music for the sacred liturgy.

  6. I keep reminding myself that we’ll have new translations and, ergo, new mass settings pretty soon here. Admittedly, the liturgical and musical sensibilities of today have come a long way since the 1970s. But it’s just gonna be the same old if only big name are allowed to get near the texts. I’ve never been comfortable having a copyrighted liturgy.

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