Monday, September 8, 2014

No Choice Of Chant For Young Catholics

Regina Pacis Cantorum exists because of the dearth of truly sacred music in today's Catholic liturgy. In thanks for our trying to bring it back to prominence (which Vatican II says it is supposed to have), we're called "elitist," a "relic," and "behind the times." The lay people who make up the largest proportion of Mass-goers these days were brought up on Jack Miffleton, Joe Wise, Tom Parker, Ray Repp, the St. Louis Jesuits, Marty Haugen, and David Haas, inter alia. Many of those before that generation were all too glad to get rid of chant and polyphony, eagerly welcoming Repp, Parker, et al. into the liturgy in the mid-1960's.

Dioceses and archdioceses give a wide berth to not only the Oregon Catholic Press/GIA/J.S. Paluch modern hymnody but "contemporary Christian" (read: Protestant/evangelical) music at Mass while trying to shove chant and polyphony under the rug, or at best ignore that they even exist. Nowhere does this seem to be more apparent than at "LifeTeen" Masses and other ministries aimed at young people. The majority of those who attend LifeTeen Masses will never enter a church again after they go to college/graduate from high school, and they will never get any exposure to sacred music, even (or especially!) at most "Catholic" colleges and universities.

The Baltimore Archdiocese is celebrating its 225th anniversary with a concert by Matt Maher, a contemporary Christian artist who happens to be Catholic. I'm sure Maher is a fine man and I concede this is not taking place in the context of a Mass, but what are young people in Baltimore (those who actually bother to go) going to get out of this concert? They may well conclude it's nothing more than a poor substitute for what they hear on the radio or see on MTV (on the rare occasion MTV actually shows a music video). We adults assume this is what the kids want/need for their spirituality, and they could never want to hear/sing chant or polyphony. Why? Also, the Diocese of Reno is eager to cater to the many ethnic populations in northern Nevada as well as to young people, but why is exposure to chant never included?

Contrast that with this article about fledgling Latin Chant camps that have become wildly popular with Catholic kids. Thank God they actually got exposed to sacred music, and that we adults allowed them! Unfortunately, most of us adults raised on "Sons of God" and "Here I Am, Lord" don't want to call our kids on to the deeper spirituality of chant and polyphony because it would be setting the bar too high for them. As Robert Browning said, "A man's reach must exceed his grasp / Or what's a Heaven for?"

Catholic adults think they're doing the kids a favor by denying them any exposure to sacred music; rather, they're creating the next generation of former Catholics. My sincere hope is that Regina Pacis Cantorum can put a small dent in that process and maybe even reverse it a little, showing Catholics of all ages that chant and polyphony can take them into closer spiritual fellowship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

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