Saturday, January 05, 2008

"Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil things against you..."

"Musicians are a tender-hearted lot. We can receive a thousand compliments for our work but we chafe at one raised eyebrow. Liturgical musicians find themselves with added problems. We are not performing and we know that we should not seek praise and we do not seek it-and we try not to feel a sense of gratification when we do receive it.
And yet, we too are musicians with tender hearts. Parishioners who comment negatively about what we do can get under our skin like no one else."
-J. Tucker, Sacred Music, Winter 2007
Well, it finally happened. I received a personal attack on my music (singing chant) which also included a personal attack on my character. Certainly inevitable in this church situation where feelings are strong in either direction about true Sacred Music versus "contemporary-feel-good-about-myself" music in church, as well as anything which involves the liturgy and those two camps.
I won't go into detail about the circumstances, as I am not sure how much I am at liberty to say, but basically an anonymous comment was received attacking (in particular) the singing of the introit by myself and a friend (which I had written on here about earlier and we ended up doing for one Mass of Holy Family and the Vigil of MMOG,) and it didn't just attack the fact that it "prevented" the congregation from singing, but it went so far as to make personal accusations against me. There were other comments received about the same thing, another anonymous and somewhat nasty, and one more reasonable that was not anonymous, that brought up the standard points against not allowing the congregation to sing.
Hence, the appropriateness of the quote above.
And I should be rejoicing because of this personal persecution, right? (of course, my boss says with a good heart, "yeah, now you get to experience a tiny drop of what some of these people have given to me over the past couple years...")
And I do sincerely believe that I should be glad for this slight suffering, because I believe that what I am doing is helping to further the Kingdom of God, BUT...I still have so many questions., for example, I was having a conversation last night with (the sister of someone who reads this blog, and I dearly love her,) and she of course asked why I was a little down, so I had to tell her this story, and she can see the other side of the story. "Well, I would rather sing the songs...I would rather participate in that way!" (then she went on to say that's why she prefers St. C to St. T...) And this summarizes my problem, which hurts at this point!
What am I doing when good people; excellent Catholics, can't appreciate the good of what I am trying to do? It's enough to not make me want to even sing the Communion Antiphon anymore! (again, see quote above as it applies to "many positive comments, but just one negative...") And now I'm even getting persecuted for it! I should just go off and get some nice cushy job where I just do what everyone wants and not worry about anything. (Oh wait, that's not possible...)
(oh, boo hoo...hear the tiny violins playing in the distance...)


Gavin said...

I just remind myself that my boss gets it MUCH worse than I do. As he said one day, "You have nothing to complain about. I have to get people yelling, literally yelling in my face about how I'm worse than Satan, then I have to give the same person communion on Sunday!" I'm getting to the point where I try to just ignore such comments. It's not easy, being a male (my response is to go Chuck Norris on the old ladies) but I just continue. Ultimately I remember that what I'm doing is right and that the people who complain have no validity to their arguments.

Mr S said...

Attacks like that do make you think don't they?

I will never forget the day two young men (Baptists by choice, Catholics by birth) looked me in the eye and said how upset they were because I was going to hell ... for being a Catholic. I understood what they were saying....but it hurt because they were/are two of my own sons.

Seventeen or so years later they have "mellowed" and concede that some Catholics mught just make it to heaven :)

But this same seventeen years later has seen some changes in me (I hope) .... from being a lax Catholic who knew they were wrong (just did not know how to answer them)..... to one who is absorbed in apologetics and can now share, explain and defend what we believe.

Moral of the story... it was avid anti-Catholics who brought me home. I pray avid anti-liturgists will strengthen your resolve.....and it won't take 17 years.!!

God works in mysterious ways.

Jeanne said...

Don't worry about it - you're not there to please everyone, and it's not possible anyway. You are bringing a strong presence and enhancing the Liturgy with your selections. Stick to your guns. Those that don't like it can go somewhere else - they can listen to drivel almost anywhere else, actually. Anyway, the Communion Antiphon I personally enjoy very much.

I also thought the introit was fitting and brought much more to the "gathering" than the normal congregational singing. IMO, people should appreciate LISTENING to beautiful music as the Mass unfolds, and you provide that for St P's.

Anonymous said...


Your singing is beautiful and the introit you did was wonderful. I'd rather never sing again and just listen to you forever than insist on my "right" to participate. Let them complain; I've never been to a parish where the singing was so beautiful and the selections so marvellously reflected the transcendent nature of the liturgy.

I also think it was a little insensitive of your boss to say, "Now you know what I go though!" He ought to have been listening to your problem, not just relating the conversation to himself.

Mr S said...

I also think it was a little insensitive of your boss to say, "Now you know what I go though!" He ought to have been listening to your problem, not just relating the conversation to himself.

Sometimes the best way to "relate" to a problem is to associate it to your own situation .... called empathy.

I was told to my face by a parishioner that he "hates his pastor". Now that was blunt.

But I could relate by sharing similar attacks I have receieved because of what I believe.

There is no greater pain than having a child reject your faith and "preach" against the Church. Having lived those pains, I can better understand a pastor's pain when his spiritual children run rampant.

Just hang in there Mara - thankfully your "boss" is on the same page.

Think of what you will endure when the time comes for the TLM. :)

Gavin said...

The boss is totally right. We musicians only get a taste of the real problems. And keep in mind all the problems we have to deal with are LITURGICAL ones. Luckily for my boss, those are really the only problems he has at our parish.

Jeanne makes a good point too. I don't get these complainers; they can hear the "same old same old" anywhere else, don't they want their parish to be special? I often ask people at St. S, "how are we going to get this parish to grow if we're doing the exact same thing as St. T and St. M?"

Angela said...

I'm sorry, but I really don't feel like you are being persecuted in any way - everyone receives good and bad critiques, no matter what job they have. I believe that instead of complaining, you should take the opportunity this critique provides. Take a step back and be open to the possibility that you are wrong (or that you and the person who disagrees with you are both right in certain ways). Please remember that while you may be right, being certain that you're right is certainly not being open to God's will.

Mara Joy said...

My issue is with the comment which, as I stated in the entry "went so far as to make personal accusations against me," not the comments that were critiques. I deliberately avoided saying what the precise comment was, but I will explain this a little more and say that it went so far as to make false personal attacks on my character. I'm not sure how that is NOT being persecuted. A personal attack is clearly not a "critique" as you call it. And I don't think that I am "complaining." I think I stated pretty clearly that I know I should rejoice for this suffering. (and don't think either that I'm making a mountain out of a mole-hill; because this comment was not "public property" I don't think I am at liberty to say exactly what it said, but it was painful and personal enough that it still hurts to think about it!)
And if you have ever read much of my blog before (including this entry,) you would notice that I DO spend a great deal of time puzzling over what is "right," as in different liturgical music I have experienced, obviously although not necessarily stated-what DOES God want me to do?

Angela said...

Hello Mara,
I certainly do not know the particulars of what happened, and I'm sorry it was so hurtful.

Cantor said...

Hi Mara,

I can empathize to some extent with what you're talking about. I was basically accused in my last parish of lying by a parishioner who thought the modest amount of chant that was done on Good Friday was just awful. I apparently "lied" about the community response when I solicited feedback on the Triduum music in the bulletin - she couldn't believe that the responses I received were as positive as I said they were.

I've also found myself losing sleep over the departure of a choir member who thinks I do a poor job liturgically and musically.

Jeffrey is right - we are (or at least, I am) a sensitive lot. But I think that sensitivity arises from a concern we share for doing what will, in the end, lead people closer to God and the sense that chant, Latin, etc. are part of that even if they are less popular than the pop-concert liturgies.

More and more, I think there is much lost from the liberty people have to "shop" for a parish. It would be nice to see more attention paid to encouraging folks to stay in their local parishes and be positive forces for change (or subjects for that change!).