(1) saccharine music that induces mere emotionalism and pseudo-ritual that stunts curiosity, hamstrings the imagination and distracts hearts and minds from encountering God in and through the Sacraments which God Himself gave us;
- A) Too often, what passes for liturgical music tends to blast apart lyrics and turn the text—if it even comes close to the biblical text of the Mass—into an after thought. Praise and worship music tends to enamour the worshipper in the beat of the music. At least according to the Catholic ethos, music must serve the text. However appealing the music might be, the text must rule supreme. The musical setting serves to enhance focus on the theological meaning of the text. Whereas text painting in the music of J.S. Bach is sublime, the attachment of sounds to the text of your average praise and worship song can hardly be considered an accurate theological realization of implied harmonic relationships. B) Rhythm of language helps communicate intangibles. Jamming lyrics into machine-like rhythms tends to rob worshippers of the natural cadence of the text and its deeper theological meaning. In place of a spontaneous encounter between the soul and God through the word, congregants are forced to march lockstep almost to the complete loss of sharing the poetry of prayer. Instead of pray-ers, worshippers become robotic parrots. Curiously, rock-pop praise and worship music tends to miss the obvious connection between rhythm of speech and musical setting. What the congregation gets instead is a series of slogans that place the emPHAsis on the wrong syLLAble. Chant preserves the unity of the congregation while permitting individuals to share in the movement of the prayer. C) Chant is, happily, messy compared to praise and worship music. In this instant, the messiness is much more human and conducive to fostering a forum in which grace is permitted room to work through the text to shape the heart into the rhythm of the Word. Conversely, unless applied with a mastery equal to a Palestrina, Vittoria, Byrd and others of equal artistic calibre, meter and regularized tempo can distort and obscure the text thus rendering it laughable or offensive. Meter, in the hands of a hack composer, leads to a dictatorship of tempo over the natural rhythm and tempo of speech.
- How often do we hear homilies that demand that we live the Faith without compromise? How often do we hear the Catechism quoted? How often do we hear trite speeches about Father Celebrity's weekend at the spa or some other personal anecdote intended to let everyone know he's as human as the rest of us? How often do we hear about virtue, or about the lives of saints who rejected societal hedonism and/or cultural narcissism as distractions and obstacles to living with integrity? How often do we hear about the recusants in England, or the Ukrainian Catholics who were driven from their churches and slaughtered or imprisoned by the Soviet state, or Catholic Chinese forced underground and bishops imprisoned by an oppressive regime? How often do we hear about fasting and abstinence and its spiritual benefits? How often do we hear about spiritual warfare and the battles between angels and demons?
(3) an avoidance of authentic ritual;
- For far too long, the faithful have been fed misrepresentations about the Liturgy by liturgical revisionists whose thinking is a remnant ideology from an era of aggressive social and liturgical anarchy. Communion in the hand, beyond a limited experiment which, given an immediate loss of reverence among its practitioners, should have convinced everyone to say 'no' to the practice, has produced a generation of accidentally irreverent communicants. The most devoted followers of Christ are those who keep God's commandments (so saith Christ!—St. John 14:21) and acknowledge the sublime gift of the Holy Eucharist for Who and what it is—Jesus Christ present, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. Evangelization must begin and end with the Holy Eucharist, the source and summit of the Christian life. The Eucharist tells us who and what we are. Even when Catholics are deprived of the Blessed Sacrament, as was the case, for example, in Japan for centuries, God in His abiding mercy gives to His people grace to participate in His Son's Passion which keeps them close to the Son. If, however, the Mass is obscured by goofy ritual and burdened by improvisations that enable human pride and merely draw attention to man instead of God, parishes will be reduced to religious social clubs. The ritual of the Church has been much tinkered with to devastating effect. Most Catholics, it could be wagered, consider ritual to be mere (disposable) decoration. They have little appreciation for the fact that Jesus used ritual throughout the record of the Gospels to bring people into closer proximity with the Father. Jesus' miracles affirm the necessity of ritual which open man's heart and mind to the Truth, Goodness and Beauty of God. Jesus immerses His followers in ritual. Mercy and ritual go hand in hand. The language of mercy is ritual; the language of the sacred is ritual. Ritual is poetry, the language of holiness. Holiness is the soul growing in likeness to God. Souls unfamiliar with the holiness of God tend to treat God as a buddy who can be fashioned into any comfortable object that fits one's wants. Souls unwilling to embrace the authority of Christ, the holiness of Christ, are like husbands who remove their wedding rings when they go out to a pub. Little do such men realize that the mark their wedding bands have left on their ring fingers is visible to those who know well enough when men are trying to hide the fact they are married. Men and women without true ritual are men and women without the ritual of Truth. They are souls subject to every whim, every temptation and, ignorant of their weaknesses and distance from Jesus, their susceptibility to every sin.
(4) bland church buildings;
- The space or place conditions the heart and mind. You become the place you inhabit. In a sense, the place inhabits you. Beautiful places create beautiful souls. Beautiful churches shape and form minds and hearts in the beauty and goodness of Truth. The beauty of the Word faithfully preached forms souls into beautiful temples for the Holy Spirit. Conversely, bland spaces diminish souls. Human relationships begin to resemble dysfunctional spaces. The destruction of beautiful altars in decades past destroyed joy and hope in people. The exuberant art of a beautifully constructed church raises minds and hearts to the adoration of God and reminds us of our dignity in Christ. One could say that since the 1960s, churches have become idols of a lesser god—i.e., man without God—and by inhabiting undignified spaces man has lost his sense of dignity, and with that loss he has lost joy and resilience.
Young people need elders who are well versed in the story of the People of God, elders who are grounded in the Truth and who practice the art of religion that enables one to be docile to the Holy Spirit. Haven't we all had enough of aged hippies trying to sell us the very loathsome "Media Council" that is such a hindrance to the liturgical renewal actually sought by the Second Vatican Council?