Thursday, April 26, 2012

Watered-down religion

I recently subbed for a funeral at a nearby church, and found myself not just getting annoyed, but also just very depressed. I was depressed at the watering-down of not only the liturgy, but also how that relates to the whole Gospel message--of not only salvation, but also repentance.

For example, at most funerals (assuming many people are guests and either un-churched or non-Catholic,) the priest says something like, "please kneel or be seated," or better yet, "please kneel," right before the Consecration. It shouldn't matter whether the people actually believe in what is happening; they should still show respect to what we consider extremely sacred, as they are in our church building. Even when the priest announces, "please kneel," I still see many people sitting instead of kneeling, which I suppose is their right, since perhaps if they really thought about it (and weren't just lazy as I imagine most of them are,) then they would realize that it could be idolotrous for them to kneel before something they don't believe in, but my point is that I do believe it's the responsibility of the priest to remind people that something sacred is happening, and their bodies should show as much respect as they are willing to. However, at this funeral, the priest asked everyone to remain standing. I do not know if that is the Sunday tradition at this parish (several of the choir members knelt still along with me,) but I wonder why the priest would say that? Nowhere in any Church documents is it given as an allowance for people to stand during the Consecration! Our bodies should reflect the attitude of our hearts- and I suspect the theology for wanting people to stand at this point would be a very warped idea that the focus at the moment would be on the people, standing united, and focusing on the Resurrection.  No. It should be on WORSHIP and ADORATION.

Anyhow, the more theological but less liturgical thing that really bothered me (and this is by no means unusual at funerals!) was the "canonization" of the deceased. While he may have been a very holy person, and a good and kind person, it makes me so sad when priest and people completely forget two things. First of all, Christ said "the Way is narrow, and few will enter it." How dare you assume that you know better than God where this person's soul is? Secondly, if we assume that someone is in heaven, then as Catholics we are completely ignoring the possibility of Purgatory, and that has dangerous and sad consequences for the deceased. If we assume they are in Heaven, and do not consider the possibility of them being in Purgatory, then we will not pray for their soul. And our prayers on earth can decrease the time spent in Purgatory and lessen their suffering. Isn't that what we should want for our deceased loved ones? To tell living family members that their loved one is in Heaven might make them feel good for awhile, but how does that help the suffering deceased soul?

Not to digress too much, but it was actually very weird what the priest said about being "Saints." I think at some point he may have actually said that the deceased was not a "Saint," but then he said something like, "We aren't Saints, but we are all saints!" I was like WTF?!?! I cannot believe that this man is a pastor. (Actually, I am not sure if this priest was the pastor, but ... I cannot believe that this man is ordained! You are trying to telling me that he spent how many years in seminary? and is now the guardian and shepherd of a flock?!) THEOLOGY 101, DUDE! IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO BE A SAINT UNTIL YOU ARE DEAD AND IN HEAVEN! And given that there were quite a few people in the church, I would bet my life savings on the fact that at least some of the people in that church building live very UNSAINTLY lives! How dare that priest think he knows the lives and everyone there, and even more how dare he assume that he knows we are all going to Heaven? The worst part of it is, by saying something like that, you are in no way calling people on to continue to seek out the Truth and to live better and holier lives; you are saying that they are doing just fine where they are at. We should NEVER be done striving for holiness. By saying otherwise, you are allowing people to become complacent- spiritual sloth = one of the seven deadly sins!

Now for the summary of my thoughts. Who would ever want to belong to such a religion? A religion that pats you on the back and tells you are doing a great job? A religion that tells you that you don't have to worship anything, that just coming to church and being a nice person is all that matters?

Until you find something worth dying for, you're not really living!

I don't know about you, but I would never die for such a religion.

And this priest thinks he can fill his church with trendy music and making people feel good about themselves. The scary part is, it somewhat works. At least for awhile. After a couple generations, the children and grandchildren stop coming, b/c they lose the sense of community in the parish, and the things I mentioned a couple paragraphs up certainly aren't reasons to keep coming to church.

And so who gains from this watered-down religion? Does the priest? Certainly not. "And whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a millstone fastened around his neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea." (Matthew 18:6.) Isn't that what a priest is doing by not only encouraging people to not show due respect for the Eucharist, but also encouraging everyone to come up and receive Communion? (as this priest did...I think it is safe to say that in any typical funeral congregation, there are non-Catholics and Catholics who have committed sins such as missing Mass...) And do any of the people gain by being patted on the back, instead of reminded of the suffering aspect of salvation; both of Christ's as well as the necessity of our own suffering and repentance? Certainly not. And I am so glad that's not what Catholicism is about, but that would be one darn boring and pointless religion!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"Bad Vestments"

BAHAHAHA! I've just stumbled across this blog...the title says it all!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

new job!

wow, what an exciting weekend! I mean, it wasn't terribly exciting, but I really am embarking on an adventure. First of all, I have NEVER been told that I was playing a hymn to slow in my life, occasionally people comment on how fast they are... but my new pastor apparently really really likes fast hymns (and I think he actually likes hymns, not just fast "contemporary" music,) and he even told me that one of my hymns was too slow. (I'm still not sure if it was "Alleluia Number 1," or "Ye Sons and Daughters." (He said "the second song you played," which would be the Alleluia No. 1; if I weren't brand new at this, and had had more of an opportunity to figure it out, I might have argued with him, "listen, dude, you know what city I'm from? well, that's where the composer of that song is from. I think I've heard it enough times and from close enough sources to the original, that I KNOW how fast it's supposed to go." So, I just sped it up a bit for the next Mass. However, he may have been referring to "Ye Sons and Daughters," which would make a LOT more sense, as that piece is able to be sung at a large range of tempos. I did it a touch slower than I would have normally done b/c it was for communion. So I sped that up for the next Mass also. ) Anyhow, my weekend was made absolutely delightful, when, upon entering the choir loft on Saturday afternoon, I realized that the organ was pretty much *completely* fixed and useable! (I had been prepared for it to be about 50%. blah.) It was wonderful! A bit out of tune, but it's got a nice, new console, and a LOT of ranks and pipes! I've never gotten to play an organ for a church before that even had more than 7 ranks, lol! Now, I am soooo excited to get more comfortable with the different registrations and starting to be creative. (I think that one of the things that has always held me back in my flexibility with registrations when using an organ like Hill, is that I simply have no experience and little opportunity to practice. It will of course be exciting as well, "Oh wow, that trumpet came out a little louder than I was expecting on that..." :-P So, to be able to play this organ, in this gorgeous church? Well, hopefully the situation will be all rainbows and unicorns, but I'm mentally preparing myself to be able to "put up" with a LOT, and stick it out...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

TLM and Adventures

Firstly, I am about to embark on an adventure. (A very low-paying, but exciting nonetheless, adventure.) Starting this weekend, I will be thrown into a church job that will require every bit of my musical creativity and energy. (The outgoing organist: "So the new Mass setting that I wrote and that we've been using is in 6 flats, but it's not very hard." and "Well, there aren't any accompaniment books b/c I just improvise and harmonize to the missalette, so hopefully you can do the same..." oh goody...My plan is to require after the first weekend - where I will use an old copy of Choral Praise for the hymns- that the parish either buy or find the accompaniment books that they should be receiving for free every 3 years with the music subscription.)

Secondly, this same parish offers a TLM, which I was not asked to play for. I heard from one source that the current organist "wants" to keep playing it, from another that the current organist "hates" the traditional Mass/music, and from still another source that the current organist is sticking with it b/c he doesn't think he can find anyone competent to replace him! (Well, they definitely didn't even ask me if I've ever had any experience with it. I plan on at least waiting to tell them until I'm good and settled in and have figured out some of the politics a bit more at this parish, and possibly longer b/c I'm going to enjoy my late Sunday mornings while I can! Lol!)

Anyhow, this got me thinking about my feelings towards the TLM. I was thinking, "what if someone asked me why exactly I like the TLM?" I think my main answer would be that I like it b/c you are practically guaranteed a more reverent liturgy, and you don't have to worry about any goofy "innovations." However, I really don't like the fact that the whole thing is in Latin, and I would definitely over-all prefer a reverent Novus Ordo liturgy anyday. But one not-very-good reason that I do think I like the TLM as a musician who might do music for it, is that the people at it will appreciate the music more than the average Novus Ordo. The kinds of music that are done at it can be more choir-oriented, and more enjoyable for me to do. The reason I was thinking that this might not be the best attitude for me, is that this could start to lead to a more "performance" attitude. Ok, there is a whole lot of thoughts in this paragraph that I haven't quite begun to sort out, and it made more sense in my head than it is coming out on the screen, so I will stop here! :-)

Friday, April 06, 2012

A lovely Triduum!

A lovely Triduum so far. I am really glad to be at the parish at which I'm at this year! It's kind of bittersweet though, since it is bringing back memories of where I was last year (and the previous 4 years!) and where I will be next year. (Since I will only be at the current parish for the next week, and the future is rather fuzzy at the moment...)

I was very pleased that I only had to witness men having their feet washed, but was a little uncomfortable when I found out that the pastor would afterwards invite anyone who wanted forward to have their feet washed. ("awwwwwkward," thought I...)

I promise that I did not intend for it to work this way, but what ended up happening was there were 3 men left when the first piece of music was finished, so not knowing whether the priest was going to *say* anything when I was done to invite people up, I started the next piece. Looking in the mirror, I observed that he did indeed get in the middle aisle and (I assume,) invited people up, but this happened to be as the choir/congregation was singing the refrain of the new song. Either as a result of the congregation agreeing with me about the awkwardness of coming forward, or else they simply didn't get the message b/c the pastor was speaking over the music (that is the part that I promise wasn't intentional!) as far as I could tell from my limited vision, no one went forward! I almost laughed out loud when the 3 men left to wash others feet simply awkwardly stood there.

Note to self and priest-- try to avoid introducing innovations into the liturgy. they're just...awkward.
(awkward, awkward, awkward. There. Are you sick of that word yet?)