Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deal W. Hudson

4/24/2014 (1 year 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 (1 year 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'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2015
Universal:
That political responsibility may be lived at all levels as a high form of charity.
Evangelization: That, amid social inequalities, Latin American Christians may bear witness to love for the poor and contribute to a more fraternal society.



Comments


More U.S.

ATHEISTS LOSE: A big win for religion as Big Mountain Jesus remains Watch

Image of Big Mountain Jesus statue looks upon the earth.

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Atheist activists lost a years-long battle this week over the "Big Mountain Jesus statue," which has been standing for over 60 years on public land near the Big Mountain ski resort in Montana. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - The statue was made to ... continue reading


Excitement builds with massive mural of Pope Francis before his midtown Manhattan visit Watch

Image of Commissioned by DeSales Media Group, the communications and technology arm of the Diocese of Brooklyn, the mural is drawing positive attention to the pending papal visit.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Excitement is building in New York City with the visit of Pope Francis this September 24. A massive, hand-painted mural, 225-feet tall has been placed in midtown Manhattan at the corner of Eighth Avenue and 34th Street, close to Madison Square Garden, where the ... continue reading


Five Chinese warships sail near Alaskan coast during Obama's visit Watch

Image of The nation of China has increased defense spending to modernize its forces. China is set to hold a massive military parade this week featuring some 12,000 troops this week, marking the 70 years since World War II ended in Asia.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Unnamed defense officials have identified a Chinese amphibious ship, a replenishment vessel and three surface combatant ships - altogether five Chinese warships in the Bering Sea off Alaska. The ships were sighted during U.S. President Barack Obama's three-day ... continue reading


Immigrants on welfare: Relevant factors often ignored Watch

Image of Workers harvest plants.

By Kenya Sinclair (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Center of Immigration Studies, a group that advocates for lower levels of immigration, released a report showing 51 percent of immigrant-led households receive some kind of welfare benefit. Benefits include Medicaid, food stamps, school lunches, housing assistance ... continue reading


Pope Francis to give United States Mass in Spanish Watch

Image of Pope Francis to deliver Washington Mass in Spanish.

By Kenya Sinclair (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Cardinal Donald William Wuerl has announced Pope Francis' decision to give his Washington Mass on September 23 in Spanish. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "It's a recognition of how large the Hispanic population in the United States is," Wuerl said. "And he's ... continue reading


Obama gets votes to protect Iran nuclear deal Watch

Image of Barbara Mikulski becomes the 34th vote for the nuclear deal.

By Kenya Sinclair (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The nuclear deal between the United States, China, Britain, France, Russia, Germany and Iran has been under intense scrutiny from Republicans and some Democrats, however Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski has agreed to pledge support. Mikulski's support means ... continue reading


Pope Francis asks American teenager to sing for him Watch

Image of Valerie Herrera sings

By Kenya Sinclair (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

17-year-old Valerie Herrera, a senior at Cristo Bey Jesuit High School, was asked by Pope Francis to sing a song. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Americans were invited to a virtual meeting with Pope Francis via satellite, which was moderated from inside the ... continue reading


Making the punishment fit the crime - Ohio judge doles out unusual sentences Watch

Image of Judge Michael Cicconetti's type of justice seems to be working, as only 10 percent of those who complete the judge's unusual sentences wind up in court a second time.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Making the punishment fit the crime seems to be the method behind Judge Michael Cicconetti's madness. The Ohio judge metes out unusual sentences in lieu of hefty fines and jail time. It must be working, as those sentenced to perform the unlikely, court-mandated ... continue reading


Pope Francis holds virtual audience with Americans prior to U.S. visit Watch

Image of Pope Francis participated in a virtual audience hosted by ABC News. Moderated inside the Vatican by ABC News'

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Speaking to Americans nationwide, Pope Francis participated in a virtual audience hosted by ABC News. Moderated inside the Vatican by ABC News' "World News Tonight," the segment will air this Friday, September 4, on ABC's "20/20" news program. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


'It just fell out': Latest Planned Parenthood hidden-camera footage reveals a sickening lack of human values (WARNING: Graphic Video) Watch

Image of Procurement Manager, Perrin Larton

By Kenya Sinclair (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Planned Parenthood is exposed once again in another undercover video from the Center for Medical Progress. A conversation with Dr. Katharine Sheehan, long-time medical director of Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest until 2013, Perrin Larton, the Procurement ... 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, Colossians 1:15-20
15 He is the image of the unseen God, the first-born ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 100:1, 2, 3, 4, 5
1 [Psalm For thanksgiving] Acclaim Yahweh, all the ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 5:33-39
33 They then said to him, 'John's disciples are ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 4th, 2015 Image

St. Rosalia
September 4: St. Rosalia, daughter of Sinibald, Lord of Roses and Quisquina, ... 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