Friday, August 22, 2008

NPM Carefully editing Pius XII

The August/September issue of Pastoral Music, published by the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, is dedicated to liturgical ensembles. The pictures of musicians in various parish settings tell the story.

The cover has a flute player in a jeans jacket playing next to two cellists in front of a youth choir. Page 14 has a guitar player with a conga player. Page 17 has two guitar players and a conga player. Page 18 features a guitar player. Page 22 has three bongo players. Page 24 has two flute players with a recorder player in front of a youth choir. Page 26 has a cellist and a violinist. Page 27 has a string bass player plucking his instrument. Page 28 has two guitar players with singers crowded around microphones. Page 31 has a pianist with a clarinetist, two flute players, a violist, and a trumpet player. Page 33 shows another flute player. Page 34 has two guitar players. Page 38 has two guitar players with a recorder player and two singers. Page 52 has a cantor in the "touchdown" position.

Now at last we come to page 59, which has an op-ed sized article called "Interior As Well As Exterior" by….Pius XII! It's an excerpt from Mediator Dei (1947), and it includes the pull quote: "Let the full harmonious singing of our people rise to heaven like the busting of a thunderous sea."

As much as I appreciate learning from Pastoral Music that there was a Pope that came before Paul VI, there are a number of issues this raises. The first is the good point that the call for active participation is not a unique contribution of Vatican II. It's good to be reminded of that.

On the downside, the excerpt they publish provides no paragraph numberings other than to mention in a note that these are excerpts. Not even the full paragraphs are included. On the contrary, the selections are judicious and agenda driven. Moreover, the cherry-picked quotations here have no ellipses. In fact, the casual reader could be easily led to believe that what appears in Pastoral Music is what appeared in 1947.

So, for example, the reader has no idea what precisely that Pius XII wants to bust like a thunderous sea.

The editors completely cut the section that explains this, which includes the last section of they paragraph 105 that the article claims to quote: "This can be done in more than one way, when, for instance, the whole congregation, in accordance with the rules of the liturgy, either answer the priest in an orderly and fitting manner, or sing hymns suitable to the different parts of the Mass, or do both, or finally in high Masses when they answer the prayers of the minister of Jesus Christ and also sing the liturgical chant."

The Pope goes on to explain that the dialogue Mass in no way replaces the High Mass, and that even if people do not know Latin, they still benefit from singing it:

106. These methods of participation in the Mass are to be approved and recommended when they are in complete agreement with the precepts of the Church and the rubrics of the liturgy. Their chief aim is to foster and promote the people's piety and intimate union with Christ and His visible minister and to arouse those internal sentiments and dispositions which should make our hearts become like to that of the High Priest of the New Testament. However, though they show also in an outward manner that the very nature of the sacrifice, as offered by the Mediator between God and men, must be regarded as the act of the whole Mystical Body of Christ, still they are by no means necessary to constitute it a public act or to give it a social character. And besides, a "dialogue" Mass of this kind cannot replace the high Mass, which, as a matter of fact, though it should be offered with only the sacred ministers present, possesses its own special dignity due to the impressive character of its ritual and the magnificence of its ceremonies. The splendor and grandeur of a high Mass, however, are very much increased if, as the Church desires, the people are present in great numbers and with devotion.

107. It is to be observed, also, that they have strayed from the path of truth and right reason who, led away by false opinions, make so much of these accidentals as to presume to assert that without them the Mass cannot fulfill its appointed end.

108. Many of the faithful are unable to use the Roman missal even though it is written in the vernacular; nor are all capable of understanding correctly the liturgical rites and formulas. So varied and diverse are men's talents and characters that it is impossible for all to be moved and attracted to the same extent by community prayers, hymns and liturgical services. Moreover, the needs and inclinations of all are not the same, nor are they always constant in the same individual. Who, then, would say, on account of such a prejudice, that all these Christians cannot participate in the Mass nor share its fruits? On the contrary, they can adopt some other method which proves easier for certain people; for instance, they can lovingly meditate on the mysteries of Jesus Christ or perform other exercises of piety or recite prayers which, though they differ from the sacred rites, are still essentially in harmony with them.

He further clarifies a great error in understanding that was prevalent then and now:

114. They, therefore, err from the path of truth who do not want to have Masses celebrated unless the faithful communicate; and those are still more in error who, in holding that it is altogether necessary for the faithful to receive holy communion as well as the priest, put forward the captious argument that here there is question not of a sacrifice merely, but of a sacrifice and a supper of brotherly union, and consider the general communion of all present as the culminating point of the whole celebration.

As for Gregorian chant, let the Pope speak:
191. As regards music, let the clear and guiding norms of the Apostolic See be scrupulously observed. Gregorian chant, which the Roman Church considers her own as handed down from antiquity and kept under her close tutelage, is proposed to the faithful as belonging to them also. In certain parts of the liturgy the Church definitely prescribes it; it makes the celebration of the sacred mysteries not only more dignified and solemn but helps very much to increase the faith and devotion of the congregation. For this reason, Our predecessors of immortal memory, Pius X and Pius XI, decree - and We are happy to confirm with Our authority the norms laid down by them - that in seminaries and religious institutes, Gregorian chant be diligently and zealously promoted, and moreover that the old Scholae Cantorum be restored, at least in the principal churches. This has already been done with happy results in not a few places.

192. Besides, "so that the faithful take a more active part in divine worship, let Gregorian chant be restored to popular use in the parts proper to the people. Indeed it is very necessary that the faithful attend the sacred ceremonies not as if they were outsiders or mute onlookers, but let them fully appreciate the beauty of the liturgy and take part in the sacred ceremonies, alternating their voices with the priest and the choir, according to the prescribed norms. If, please God, this is done, it will not happen that the congregation hardly ever or only in a low murmur answer the prayers in Latin or in the vernacular." A congregation that is devoutly present at the sacrifice, in which our Savior together with His children redeemed with His sacred blood sings the nuptial hymn of His immense love, cannot keep silent, for "song befits the lover" and, as the ancient saying has it, "he who sings well prays twice." Thus the Church militant, faithful as well as clergy, joins in the hymns of the Church triumphant and with the choirs of angels, and, all together, sing a wondrous and eternal hymn of praise to the most Holy Trinity in keeping with words of the preface, "with whom our voices, too, thou wouldst bid to be admitted."

And what of modern music?
193. It cannot be said that modem music and singing should be entirely excluded from Catholic worship. For, if they are not profane nor unbecoming to the sacredness of the place and function, and do not spring from a desire of achieving extraordinary and unusual effects, then our churches must admit them since they can contribute in no small way to the splendor of the sacred ceremonies, can lift the mind to higher things and foster true devotion of soul.

And, finally, the following little passage did not make the cut:

195. … Nevertheless, in keeping with the duty of Our office, We cannot help deploring and condemning those works of art, recently introduced by some, which seem to be a distortion and perversion of true art and which at times openly shock Christian taste, modesty and devotion, and shamefully offend the true religious sense. These must be entirely excluded and banished from our churches, like "anything else that is not in keeping with the sanctity of the place."

Pastoral Music has been making progress lately, with special issue on chant and other signs of a new openness to the changed times. But this sort of editorial manipulation really has no place in materials that are distributed with the stated goal of helping Church musicians do what the Church intends.