Monday, June 23, 2014

NLM Exclusive: Archbishop Cordileone on the Sacred Liturgy

Courtesy of Fr. Samuel F. Weber, O.S.B., Director of the Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship, the Most Rev. Salvatore Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco, has graciously agreed to share with the readers of New Liturgical Movement a portion of the conference he gave to seminarians of St. Patrick’s Seminary, Menlo Park, on February 12, 2014, entitled “Doing the ‘Pastoral Thing’ Will Always Be Harder, but Right.” The portion reproduced below is where the Archbishop addresses liturgical issues.
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“Doing the ‘Pastoral Thing’ Will Always Be Harder, but Right”

The Most Reverend Salvatore Cordileone

Some of the directives in these documents [Sacrosanctum Concilium and The General Instruction of the Roman Missal] have been observed in the life of the Church on the local level, but others have been ignored or misunderstood. So I would like to cite some passages to give some examples of where we need to focus our efforts to make our worship more in line with what the Church is asking us to do.
First of all, Sacrosanctum Concilium states at n. 36:
… the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites. But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants … 
So we can see that it was not the mind of the Council to abolish the use of Latin in the liturgy by any means; quite the contrary. But a more generous use of the vernacular was allowed in order to engage the people in the liturgy more conscientiously. It later has this to say about music (n. 116):
The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given first place in liturgical services. But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action.
Again here, the intention of the Council was quite contrary to abolishing the Church repertoire of sacred music from her worship. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal repeats this passage from Sacrosanctum Concilium at number 41, and then goes on to add: “Since faithful from different countries come together ever more frequently, it is fitting that they know how to sing together at least some parts of the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin, especially the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, set to the simpler melodies.” In 1974, Pope Paul VI even issued a little booklet, Iubilate Deo, containing these more classic chants and sent it to all the bishops of the world in order to help implement this vision. And how appropriate it is for us here in the Bay Area, where every Sunday in many of our parishes, and certainly in Masses at the diocesan level, people from different cultural and language backgrounds come together to worship.

We have to remember that, in addition to its practical purpose as a means of communication, language also has a symbolic value. When I was installed as the Bishop of Oakland, the first reading for the Mass was in Tigrinya. Never heard of it? Neither had I before then. Tigrinya is the language of Eritrea. Now, with all of the bishops and priests present there (older priests!), more people in the Oakland Cathedral that day would have understood the first reading if it had been in Latin than in Tigrinya. But Tigrinya had a symbolic value: the East Bay prides itself on its cultural diversity (as we all do here in the Bay Area), and there is a small but vibrant community of people from Eritrea living there, who have their own priest with their own rite. It was a powerful symbol of the universality of the Church which is quite visible here on the local level.

Likewise, Latin – which I once heard the late Cardinal Hickey refer to as the Church’s “old vernacular” – has both a practical and symbolic value. The practical value is that it is the common patrimony of all Catholics, and so a way that people of different languages can worship together, using texts and formulas that have been preserved from antiquity. But it also has a symbolic value: precisely because it is our common patrimony, belonging to all Catholics of all cultures and languages – indeed, it is constituent of our common Catholic culture – it teaches us that the liturgy is not ours to with as we will. No, the liturgy is a given; it is our job to celebrate it well and faithfully, not tinker with it for the sake of “creativity” or “self-expression.” This once again is a matter of succumbing to the culture of narcissism. We hear much talk today about “servant leadership.” To have credibility, we have to model that first and foremost at the liturgy: we are the servants of the liturgy, not its creators. This takes a great deal of discipline, restraint and humility on the part of the liturgical ministers, and most especially the celebrant.

Let’s hear more from Sacrosanctum Concilum about music in the liturgy, this time about the use of instruments (n. 120):
In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church's ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man’s mind to God and to higher things. But other instruments also may be admitted for use in divine worship ... This may be done, however, only on condition that the instruments are suitable, or can be made suitable, for sacred use, accord with the dignity of the temple, and truly contribute to the edification of the faithful.
A very important instruction on sacred music issued in 1967, Musicam Sacram, repeats this passage from Sacrosanctum Concilium, and then adds the following:
63. In permitting and using musical instruments, the culture and traditions of individual peoples must be taken into account. However, those instruments which are, by common opinion and use, suitable for secular music only, are to be altogether prohibited from every liturgical celebration and from popular devotions.
       Any musical instrument permitted in divine worship should be used in such a way that it meets the needs of the liturgical celebration, and is in the interests both of the beauty of worship and the edification of the faithful.
       64. The use of musical instruments to accompany the singing can act as a support to the voices, render participation easier, and achieve a deeper union in the assembly. However, their sound should not so overwhelm the voices that it is difficult to make out the text; and when some part is proclaimed aloud by the priest or a minister by virtue of his role, they should be silent.
It is true that, given the broader sense of enculturation of the liturgy that we have today, it is much more common to utilize other instruments which in some cultures are associated with worship in the mindset and practice of the people. Nonetheless, the basic liturgical principles enunciated here are timeless, and still apply as much today as they did the day they were written, namely: (1) the primary purpose of instrumentation is to support the singing of the assembly, and therefore it should not overpower the voices of the people, both in terms of volume (the number of instruments employed should therefore not be exaggerated) and of style (showy musical embellishments more appropriate to a performance should be avoided); (2) instruments commonly associated with secular use must be incorporated in such a way as to be consistent with the sacred character of the liturgy, and not simply reproduce the profane in a sacred context; and (3) there nonetheless remain some instruments that, by their very nature, cannot be suitably adapted into a sacred context.

In the Parish Context 

Now, some people might say that this is all fine and dandy, but it’s irrelevant because it’s not what’s happening in our parishes. Well, if you see a discrepancy between what is in the pages of the Church’s documents and what is going on in our parishes’ liturgies, it’s not because the documents are wrong!

This is where the three approaches can be so easily illustrated. The ideologue will simply start mandating changes without talking to people, seeking to understand them, and, most importantly, teaching them. He’s in charge, so he does what he wants, and even if what he wants is what the Church says we should be doing, he alienates people. The lazy priest simply lets things drift off on their own, and get further and further away from what the Church teaches about how we are to worship. This, too, will inevitably begin to affect how and what his people believe, and so weaken their faith. But the pastoral priest will educate his people about what the Church teaches, what the Council really had in mind for authentic liturgical reform; he will begin to introduce changes gradually, probably targeting one principal Sunday Mass to build it up as the one with special solemnity. He also will not take anything away from his people; he will keep the contemporary music at the other Masses, and teach the musicians how to do it well. In this way, he will facilitate liturgical renewal organically. And it can be done. I’ve seen it done. I know pastors who inherited a parish in shambles (in one of them, the kids’ swing set was in the pastor’s back yard!), and, by approaching it precisely this way, they have completely transformed their parishes: the Masses are full, there are long lines for confessions, the full spectrum of ministries abound – even including the teaching of Natural Family Planning – and people are on fire for their faith.

This won’t happen with the ideologue or the slouch. When the ideologue discovers that the high school kid is having a great time banging away at the drums at Mass, he’ll tell him to take a hike. Never mind that this was his one connection to the Church, and maybe even hope for keeping out of trouble. Of course, the slouch will just let it continue, maybe even encourage it, and pretend as if it’s enjoyable. The true pastor will befriend the young man, guide him as to how he can use his instrument in a way that supports the singing rather than drown it out, and begin to sensitize the musicians to their proper role. When the young man graduates and leaves for college, there is an opportunity to make a subtle change of direction.

This pastoral, organic approach is what we are trying to model here at St. Patrick’s Seminary. Gregorian chant is to have the first place in music for worship; one day a week and one Sunday a month is hardly “first place.” But it’s a start in educating you in this rich patrimony of the Church. If you are going to implement what the Church is asking us to do, you first need to understand it and appreciate it so that you have the vision; you then need to learn how to do it in a pastoral way. But if you don’t have the vision, it will never happen. This is an institution dedicated to the formation of Catholic priests; how could anyone consider it unreasonable that it wants to educate you in Gregorian chant? You are – God willing – going to be Catholic priests! Catholic priests should not know Gregorian chant?

At the same time, you all need to be familiar with classic hymnody. There is a certain repertoire of hymns that all Catholics should know. You need to know this repertoire and appreciate it yourself, if you are going to inculcate it in the people of your parish. And, yes, it is true that, at the majority of our parishes’ Masses, it’s contemporary music that is used. You need to know how to use that well; you need a lot of discernment here. There is just simply a lot of bad music out there; you need to know how to distinguish bad music from good. And you also have to pay attention to the words, because there is also a lot of bad theology. For example, a lot of popular contemporary Church songs use the phrase, “we are the body of Christ.” That is not Catholic theology, and it is not scriptural. St. Paul says that we are “one body in Christ.” “We are the body of Christ” says that this is our body to do with as we will. Sound like a familiar argument? There we see narcissism reeling its ugly head again. There is one song that even explicitly endorses narcissism. The refrain goes like this: “Behold the Body of Christ, Jesus our Savior and Life! Rejoice O people of God! We are the Body of Christ!” You have all studied logic, so do the syllogism: major premise – behold the body of Christ; minor premise – we are the body of Christ; conclusion – let us behold ourselves. But if we are one body in Christ, with him as our head and we the members of the body under him our head, that is something quite different. We are under his authority and dominion. It’s his Church, and he gave her to us for our sanctification, not to do with as we will.

In addition to paying attention to the quality of the music and the words, you also have to be sensitive to the liturgical season of the year. What the Church really envisions us doing at Mass is singing the propers at the entrance, at the preparation rite, and at Communion. In fact, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal lists the options, in order of preference, this way (n. 48; cf. nn. 74 and 87):
(1) the antiphon from the Roman Missal or the Psalm from the Roman Gradual as set to music there or in another musical setting; (2) the seasonal antiphon and Psalm of the Simple Gradual; (3) a song from another collection of psalms and antiphons; (4) a suitable liturgical song … approved by the Conference of Bishops or the diocesan Bishop.
Notice how the lowest preference is the one that is almost always done. This can’t be changed overnight, but it is possible to pick hymns and songs conducive to the season, and perhaps even to the given entrance and Communion antiphon from the Roman Missal for the given Mass. Besides the ones with bad theology, there are also a lot of contemporary songs that are straight from Scripture, especially the psalms. There will be times that you can find a wellknown contemporary song that is taken from the same psalm (or other Scripture passage) as one or both of the antiphons from the Mass of that day.

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