Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deal W. Hudson

4/24/2014 (6 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

How do we inform and reshape the Catholic culture in a way that consistently acknowledges that we were made for beauty?

Some might flinch at my use of the word "satisfying" to describe a liturgy, but I used it deliberately because I want to think aloud about the fact that we were made for beauty as much as we were made for goodness and truth.  To be satisfied by the shape, form, and celebration of the liturgy is precisely what we should feel as we worship. To bask in the real presence of Christ should not require closing your eyes and ears but rather to have both fully engaged. 

Highlights

By Deal W. Hudson

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

4/24/2014 (6 months ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: beauty, Liturgy, Music, liturgical music, Immaculate Conception Church, Washington, DC, Holy Mass, culture, aesthetics, Deal W. Hudson


WASHINGTON,DC (Catholic Online) - Every Easter my family travels to downtown DC to attend Mass at Immaculate Conception Church - not the Basilica - located in what is called the Shaw neighborhood just behind the Convention Center.  Msgr. James Watkins has, perhaps, no peer as a homilist, and from the decoration of the altar laden with flowers, to magnificent music, and full-throated liturgy responses, Mass at Immaculate Conception is invariably moving and satisfying.

Some might flinch at my use of the word "satisfying" to describe a liturgy, but I used it deliberately because I want to think aloud about the fact that we were made for beauty as much as we were made for goodness and truth.  To be satisfied by the shape, form, and celebration of the liturgy is precisely what we should feel as we worship. To bask in the real presence of Christ should not require closing your eyes and ears but rather to have both fully engaged. 

That evening, my wife Theresa read me an email exchange with a longtime friend who has been involved in liturgical music for over 20 years.  Her friend was lamenting the ugliness and banality of the music that morning at her parish.  (This is a theme that I have addressed regularly in the past 30 years of writing for Catholic audiences, and the situation, as far as I can tell, is not improving.)

Only an hour before Theresa read me the email exchange, I had noticed a lively exchange on the Facebook page of Barbara Nicolosi, well-known Catholic screenwriter and film critic.  Barbara, who I have known for many years, had started the thread with a delicately phrased complaint about the music at her parish on Sunday morning.

"It grieves me more than I can say, but the music at our Easter Mass could only be described in a charitable way as the exaltation of ugliness."

Much of the reaction to Barbara's initial comment criticized her for saying anything negative about her Easter Mass. Barbara unfortunately, but understandably, deleted those comments. But there was also a consistent theme of support, suggesting this complaint is more widely held than imagined.  Such as:

"Ours sounded like the sound track to a 70's movie."

"I will rejoice in the fact we did NOT have Liturgical Dancers."

At least the priest didn't do a Jazz Hands Jesus dance."

"The Novus Ordo Mass reflects a new theology. The music is just a side effect."

"When the music and responses sound horrific, it's a mockery...especially when people around you are trying to stifle a cry, laugh, or a snort laugh! The focus and reverence to the Mass is lost for all those sitting around the giggles!"

"A charitable way to describe the music at your Mass was that it significantly reduced your time in purgatory as well as dramatically enhancing your self control while demonstrating your love of Jesus--by not plugging your ears."

"Ours was... unusual. It began (pre-Mass) with a strange rumba version of a hymn I couldn't place played on the organ with some of the fancy electric stuff going on -- the Latin beat, and some tinkling bells. Like Mass with the Mighty Wurlitzer. After that it was a mishmash, some good and some bad,  but very cheerful."

But here is the best one, in my opinion:

"Thank goodness the Mass isn't only about the music. Or we Catholics would be atheists by now."

Theresa gave me permission to publish an edited version of the exchange with her friend. She had written a note about our wonderful experience at Immaculate Conception Church that morning.

Her friend wrote back:

"I'm jealous of your lovely Immaculate Conception Easter experience. I sang at my parish, where the music and the music direction ranged from banal to downright awful."

Note to the reader from Theresa:

"In case the reader is wondering, I've known this friend for nearly 20 years, and she is far from crabby, but extremely patient and non-judgmental."

Theresa responded:

"We have parish hopped quite a bit the last few years, and a lot of it has to do with music. We are just tired of having to give up a part of the worship experience that for us is so vital."

Her friend wrote:

"Agreed! I am SO, SO SICK of 'checking the box.' The priests here are far more dogmatic than pastoral. I don't WANT to get used to this or think it is normal, or worse, acceptable. The music directors are just awful, and all of them think their "Music Ministry" is vital and flourishing. I have sympathy for anyone with the music director gig, having done it myself, but I find them to be unprofessional and lazy, and I'm tired of holding my nose for the Sake Of The Faith. I think I'd rather just go to a weekday Mass that has no music at all."

To which, Theresa responded:

"The dogmatic outweighs pastoral here as well. It's amazing to me that music means nothing to most pastors. The congregation gets nothing and expects nothing. Poor Jesus. God created us for music. It's why we crave it. Shame on the seminaries for not teaching young priests the importance of it. If people hear the beauty of joyful music they will pack the pews AND the offering plate. The clergy don't get it."

"The clergy don't get it,"  but, and Theresa would agree, some do get it, and it is immediately apparent in their liturgies. Here is the challenge, as I see it, how do we inform and reshape the Catholic culture in a way that consistently acknowledges that we were made for beauty?

Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D

-----
Deal W. Hudson is president of the Morley Institute of Church and Culture, Senior Editor and Movie Critic at Catholic Online, and former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine.This column and subsequent contributions are an excerpt from a forthcoming book. Dr. Hudson's new radio show, Church and Culture, is heard on the Ave Maria Radio Network.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for November 2014
Lonely people:
That all who suffer loneliness may experience the closeness of God and the support of others.
Mentors of seminarians and religious: That young seminarians and religious may have wise and well-formed mentors.



Comments


More U.S.

What is 'vape?' The Oxford Dictionary proclaims it the new word for 2014 Watch

Image of Even while media outlets, health organizations and scientific studies continue to debate the benefits and pitfalls of e-cigarettes,

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

What does the word "vape" mean? Before anyone jumps to negative conclusions and think that it means something untoward - rest assured: vape is both a noun and verb, according to the Oxford Dictionary. They've gone as far as to proclaim vape as their new word of ... continue reading


Meet the doll that's flipping the world upside down! Watch

Image of Lammily, is a new doll that is proportioned just like the average American 19-year old woman.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A simple art project by a graphic designer has become the most coveted toy for the 2014 Christmas season following its November 19 release. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Nickolay Lamm made a doll he named Lammily, who is what Barbie would look like if she was ... continue reading


The Bloody Battle of Tarawa in 20 extraordinary photos Watch

Image of U.S. Marines advance while under fire from Japanese defensive positions.

By Robert Mullen (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Battle of Tarawa was one of the bloodiest and costliest battles to the U.S. in WWII in terms of men lost per time spent in combat. During the 76 hour battle from November 20-23, 1943, on that small Pacific Island, about 1,700 U.S. personnel were killed, and ... continue reading


What's the biggest danger to America? It's not nukes and it isn't terrorism Watch

Image of China is well known to have an extensive cyberwarfare program, and often utilizes civilian hackers as well as its own military personnel.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The head of the National Security Agency revealed to a Congressional panel that China and "probably one or two other" countries have the ability to shut down the nation's power grid and other critical infrastructures through cyberwarfare. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Massive collection of Catholic artifacts leave Italy for the first time in 700 years: Their destination? The Big Apple! Watch

Image of For the first time in 700 years, artifacts of St. Francis of Assisi will be removed from Italy. They will be put on display in New York during November, December and January.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An exhibit of medieval manuscripts and papal documents that have close ties with St. Francis of Assisi will be held at the United Nations in New York from November 17 to the 28. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The exhibition is titled "Friar Francis: Traces, ... continue reading


Obama gives amnesty while bracing for next 'surge' of illegals in 2015 Watch

Image of Children in holding facilities during 2014, a year where the surge of illegal children occurred.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

While President Obama has revealed his plans to shield about five million illegal immigrants from deportation, he has federal agencies getting ready for another mass surge of illegal immigrants during the spring of 2015. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - As ... continue reading


Obama declares all out war on Republicans over immigration reform Watch

Image of President Obama is expected to give a speech on November 20, outlining his plans to execute immigration reform via executive action.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Even after warnings from sitting and incoming House and Senate Republicans that unilateral action on immigration reform from President Barack Obama would not be tolerated, the president has gone ahead and outlined a plan to relax the rules and regulations of U.S. ... continue reading


The Marriage Meme of Francis: What Did the Pope Just Say about Marriage and Family? Watch

Image of Pope Francis presiding at a marriage Liturgy at St Peters.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Pope Francis embraces the unchangeable truth about marriage as solely between one man and one woman, intended for life, open to life and formative of family as the sole Meme - using the word properly.  That is why you will not read much about the crystal ... continue reading


Another black eye for Democrats: Obamacare architect makes off with $6 million in taxpayer money Watch

Image of New videos released in November show that the architect behind the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, holds nothing but contempt for the American people.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The architect of the fiasco that has been the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Jonathan Gruber, was paid about $6 million in taxpayer money between 2009 and 2014. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - This is about 24 times what an average, full-time American worker would ... continue reading


See the list of MOST FREE countries in the world, the results will surprise you! Watch

Image of Land of the Free no more, Americans report a significant decline in personal freedom under the Obama administration.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

America is supposed to be the land of the free, so Americans themselves might be surprised to see that the United States actually ranks fairly low on the index of personal freedom when compared to other nations. Instead of occupying the number 1 spot, the USA has ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Revelation 11:4-12
4 These are the two olive trees and the two lamps in ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 144:1, 2, 9-10
1 [Of David] Blessed be Yahweh, my rock, who trains ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 20:27-40
27 Some Sadducees -- those who argue that there is no ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 22nd, 2014 Image

St. Cecilia
November 22: In the fourth century appeared a Greek religious romance on the ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter