Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Let's get serious

A major problem the typical parish deals with the resources used for readings and hymns. Let me say that I don't entirely understand the need to read along with the lessons. They are, after all, in English, at least in the ordinary form. We don't require transcripts of the conversations we have during the day in order to comprehend their meaning. I wonder sometimes if Missals in English actually serve as a crutch and ultimately end in the reverse of what we think: we pay less and not more attention.

But I'm going to take on that issue here. A bigger problem concerns the quality of the resources we use. The less said about second-rate hymns, the better. I think everyone knows about that problem, which is one of critical importance. But there are other problems have to do with the lack of sobriety of the typesetting in the missalettes of wide distribution. They don't feel or look very serious. They are made for readability but end up making the Mass seem like a news magazine.

Enough with complaints. Here is what I think is a fine answer for the average parish. It is a resource from the Liturgical Press in Collegeville, Minnesota. It is called Celebrating the Eucharist. I saw this first at a parish in Portland, Oregon, and found it very impressive. I asked parishioners there what they thought, and they all said that they liked it. And I've since had the occasion to look at it more carefully.

It is a quarterly. It contains the readings, collects, Missal propers, and a Psalm for Sundays and weekdays, in addition to about 125 hymns that you can sing. The Order of Mass comes first in the book. The Psalm has two options: one metrical and one based on a Psalm tone, so that you can actually sing something liturgical.

No, I don't like the cover art. But inside, I'm most impressed at the look and feel. It is serious and sober. The price is about $4, which is way too much but competitive with the other offerings out there. It seems like a crazy expense to me, but so long as you think you need a missalette, I don't think you can do much better. I think you should strongly consider switching from the market leaders to this one. It comes with the whole apparatus of choir editions and accompaniment as well.

The best result of this is that it could inspire people to take the whole enterprise of liturgy more seriously. As for those who think that 125 hymns is too few, they are just wrong. That is plenty. If you run out, you are singing too many hymns and not enough propers. The quality of the hymns themselves is exceptional. They are plain and, again, sober, with none of the fru fru material that has so trivialized Catholic music in the last decades.

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