Implementation in the real world

Some observations, not suggestions or encouragements (especially in light of my work on an archdiocesan staff!). I am committed to working with our office of worship and ministerial groups in promoting and encouraging musicians and parishioners to embrace the new Mass text. But I sense that pragmatism will win out in many places.

At some point, whether it be 1975, 1985, 1995, 2005, we became comfortable with singing (and composing, and publishing, and allowing if not outright authorizing) variants of the Mass texts. We’ve proved quite comfortable with the little changes: “God of power and might” became “God of power, God of might” in our country’s most used setting. One of our most programmed settings of the Gloria incorporates a “sing” into the refrain. But then there are the bigger changes. Texts like “We remember how you loved us…” or “When we eat this Bread of Life” appear under the label of Memorial Acclamations in hymnals that were published “with permission of the Committee on the Liturgy, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops”.  Check your Gather hymnals. Lucien Deiss’ “Keep in Mind” has been done in parishes as a Memorial Acclamation – this is a Canadian practice, is it not? So now will “Christ Has Died” be used as an acclamation? Sure it will. Not to condone, but simply to ask: how many years will it be this time before we start using altered texts again? Or is the question “will the altered texts this time simply be the older texts?’ Look at the differences between the present and proposed Memorial Acclamation When We Eat This Bread. Does changing one word constitute altering? Two words? Five words?  How is the old different from the new?

I sense that we will tend towards pieces that use roughly the same the melody for both the 1970 and 2010 texts, letting the people sing the words they choose. Thus, in Proulx’s Community Mass Sanctus, we’ll all sing the first measure together correctly, we’ll use different words and melodies for measures 2-4, and then all fall back into place in glorious unison for measure 5 ‘til the end. Does simultaneously singing different words strike you as odd? It shouldn’t. Listen to the variants in the communion line on the Taize “Eat This Bread” or Toolan’s “I Am the Bread of Life,” both of which have been altered in the past few years. And we still don’t know if the person next to me in the pew is “a wretch like me” or if they believe that grace has “saved and set me free.” Listen carefully to the current “May the Lord accept the sacrifice…” as recited in your church. Whose hands? Whose name? Whose church? How many simultaneous variants are going in that response?

Will congregations invest time in learning a new through-composed Gloria setting, or will they simply keep singing the old ones? Will refrain settings of the Gloria win out and make through-composed settings a rarity? My prediction: the increased use of the choir-only Gloria. Some directors will decide it’s easier to teach the choir a Gloria than it is to teach a congregation.

With all due respect to those beloved, elderly, senior and venerable priests: will they make the change? Some of these fine men are still using the 1971 funeral rite!

And let’s challenge ourselves to look beyond our own English language comfort zone. If people are offended with the suggestion that there will be the inevitable tampering with the English text, where has all their concern been these past many years around variants in other languages? How many readers here are aware of what poses as service music in some Spanish congregations? Some Spanish language Gloria are simply nothing more than generic songs of praise. Where’s the outrage there? At best, we’re ignorant of the practices in other language communities; at worst we border on the arrogant if we see these changes simply as accommodations to people different from us. Do not English speaking suburban Americans have pastoral needs too? People aren’t opposed to change. People are only opposed to changes of which they are aware.

Some Lutheran pastor colleagues once enlightened me to the fact every time a new Lutheran hymnal comes out, it causes further division within the Lutheran church. What was meant to unify ends up dividing. I fear for us in a similar way. The new text as unifier might well end up being the new text as divider. This was to have been our great opportunity to learn the same Mass settings, get our celebrants singing, and get our congregations catechized. It still can be. Let’s do what we can to make the best of the new texts. But in the end, I sense faith-filled pragmatism will win out, as it always has.

Michael Silhavy is a liturgy graduate of Saint John’s University School of Theology·Seminary. He is on the Parish Services Team of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

33 comments

  1. A agree about the Spanish language Glorias used in some of our parishes, even those without a significant Spanish-speaking population. The Salazar Gloria is an example of an English language paraphrase.

  2. Did the “May the Lord accept the sacrifice” change at some point? I’ve only ever known the version that goes “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands, for the praise and glory of His name, for our good, and the good of all His Church.” Is there supposed to be another version?

    I always thought I remembered having to to sing the “Keep in mind” refrain for the Memorial Acclimation when I was little. Nice to know I wasn’t crazy and that the practice died out around here.

    1. Jack, at parishes where inclusive language is no longer an issue but a settled matter — in favor — you’ll hear this response:

      May the Lord accept this sacrifice at your hands, for the praise and glory of God’s name, for our good and the good of all God’s church.

      Why? No male pronouns referring to God. Ever. So, also, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to God’s people on earth …”

      1. Yes, and then there is the practice where the priest joins the people in the response to his own invitation, saying, “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at OUR hands, for the praise and glory of God’s name, for our good and the good of all God’s church.”

  3. Well, strictly speaking there is a slight change from the version you posted: “his” is not capitalized in the current Sacramentary…and thus my point. People will indeed speak – or capitalize- based on their own preferences or biases regardless of what the official text says. Not looking to use this reply as a “gotcha”, but to reiterate my point: despite our well intentioned efforts to teach the new text, there will be holdouts and resistence. I think we’re all looking for that comfortable and faithful space somewhere between complete dismissal of the new text and complete adherence to the new text as if we have somehow arrived at the age of complete liturgical revelation with any further changes unthinkable or unfaithful. Like it or not, there wil be more tinkering, and it’s probably necessary as it has always been.

    And we are united in our disdain for Deiss as a memorial acclmation. It’s been years since I’ve heard it, but I know it’s out there!

    1. I’m sorry, but putting my capitalization of “him” in the same category as saying something completely different is a really far stretch. Whether one says “Him” or “him,” it sounds the same. It’s like debating whether a spelling is British or American.

      Also, I was writing the phrase from memory, so it’s not like I saw the lack of capitalization in the official text and decided to “change” it to suit my own preference. I originally learned the phrase by hearing it rather than by reading it.

      1. I’m sure this is true, but I have certainly known instances where such capitalization has borne the brand of piety and has been used to impugn impious motives of those who do not capitalize words in this manner, regardless of the fact that this has not been a convention in ritual books or scriptural texts for quite some time. Acknowledging that this was not your intent, it is not implausible that such a change in the printed text could result from such motives. It’s not a big deal, but it certainly would amplify Mr. Silhavy’s argument that tinkering (subtle to some, dramatic to others) happens all the time, like it or not.

  4. +JMJ+

    A pet-peeve variation is “Amen, alleluia, forever and ever, forever, alleluia, forever and ever, amen.” Who would’ve thought it would be possible to set “Amen” in such a way that the setting (specifically the words, to say nothing of the melody) couldn’t be used during Lent!?

    The (unnecessary, in my opinion) prolonging of the “Amen” sung by the congregation seems to belong to the same category of doubling, tripling, or otherwise adding repetition into settings of the Responsorial Psalm response: if this is all the congregation gets to say, we might as well say it as much as possible. I’m not a musician, so I don’t know what it is about the pattern of “sing these words ending on THIS NOTE, sing the same words ending on a LOWER NOTE” that makes it so popular. I can understand its use in psalm tones where the words are different, but its repeated use in repetitive psalm responses starts to make them all sound the same to me after a while.

    In general, I’m not a fan of excessive variation. I can see “God of power and might” becoming “God of power, God of might”, but eventually I have to ask why the musical setting requires the words to adapt to it, rather than to adapt itself to the words. I’m disappointed the sung Gloria in English is virtually always a song with a refrain, as if that’s the only way we know how to sing. (We don’t speak it with a refrain, why must we sing it with one?)

    I sang these variants of the ordinary when I was younger because I didn’t know better, I guess. I didn’t know the texts of the Mass were (supposed to be) set.

    1. Jeffrey: I do think I see why the “prolonging of the “Amen” sung by the congregation” could be quite a good thing. Spoken in English, Amen has two syllables, not sufficient surely for the congregation’s main response to the Eucharistic Prayer, but maybe acceptable because it is spoken. Yet sort blips like this do not work in music, at least not generally. Music has to extend the two syllables in order to make musical sense. As to the use of alleluia in the Amen, I should think we are well advised to have different music for celebratory seasons and for penitential ones. Why homogenize everything? Finally, as a composer I have found over the many years that sometimes the music can be sensibly and sensitively adapted to the words, but certainly not always. Music has power and requirements of its own. Thus I can understand quite easily why a composer would want to adapt the words to the music instead of visa versa. I am not recommending any of the above, necessarily, just saying I certainly do not see them as reprehensible. Submitted respectfully.

      1. +JMJ+

        Fr. John, I agree with your points about the shortness of “A-men” in relation to the whole of the Eucharistic Prayer and the use of different music for different seasons. My remark about the musical melody of that particular “Amen” was a bit much.

        At the same time, an elaborate setting for the “Amen” seems out of place against a mostly spoken Eucharistic Prayer (with the almost universal exception of the concluding Doxology). Settings of “Amen” that I have heard in various (Latin) hymns “a-A-a-meh-EN”, “a-meh-EN”, “a-A-a-men”, and so on* would seem balanced against the typical ways I’ve heard the Doxology chanted. (Of course, who knows what the most popular setting of the new translation of the Doxology will be?)

        * (difference in case is supposed to represent ascending or descending notes…)

        As for changing the words, I find things like the above-mentioned “SING glory to God in the highest…” to be doing “violence” to the words of the prayer. I understand that the Latin of beginning of the Gloria is not strictly from Scripture, but it is still meant to be a liturgical invocation of the song of the angels. They weren’t telling the shepherds to sing (or give) glory to God and peace to men, they were announcing the good news of God’s glory and mankind’s peace.

        (And yes, I realize that the liturgical Sanctus addresses God directly (“gloria tua”) rather than indirectly as in Isaiah. I guess I’m advocating a double standard…)

      2. I think Fr. John is on the right track here. I spent more than 30 years as a sports official. Ever seen a ball game where the officials called every single small, minor violation, even those that didn’t have any effect on the outcome of a play or the safety of participants? I have, and it drains the blood out of the game.

        Much the same can be said for liturgy. The last thing any of us should want is a return to the compulsive neurosis of so many of the Masses those of us of a certain age used to attend or even serve at the altar.

      3. Jeffrey,

        I can understand that the elaborate Amen sung after a banal recitation of the Eucharist Prayer seems out of place.

        However since I often go to a parish where the Eucharistic Prayer is sung very well, the absence of an elaborate Amen would be equally out of place, almost like a “So what?” to a sung Eucharistic Prayer.

        The problem is the Eucharistic Prayer not the Amen. Most priests do it very poorly either as a banal recitation of a reading to get it done as quickly as possible or as if they were preaching it as part of the homily.

        The Eucharistic Prayer is prayer. The best way to get away from the idiosyncrasies of reading and preaching is to chant or sing it. The parish which practices this has two priests. The liturgy is always a solemn celebration which does not depend upon which of the priests is there and does not depend upon what the choir chooses for hymns since those become subordinate to the real center of the liturgy.

      4. RPB

        I think one helpful caution for celebrants to remember is: if the alteration you are contemplating is so minor that it should not be accounted it should not be considered an abuse, then perhaps it’s not important enough to employ. My impression over the past generation is that presiders imagine their pastorally-prompted customizations do far more good for the faithful than they actually do (but they do seem to make them that do them feel like they are doing something – which is a good red flag). Some of these customizations have in fact obscured things that would be psychologically and spiritually better left to be confronted more forthrightly. (Maybe I’ve just seen far too many counselor-priests engage in psychologically dishonest liturgics….)

      5. +JMJ+

        RP Burke, I think the best approach would be a game where people didn’t commit such violations, rather than an official who would consistently overlook them.

        I understand that things can happen which are beyond the control of the celebrant, and mistakes happen, but, as Karl said, “if the alteration … is so minor that … it should not be considered an abuse, then perhaps it’s not important enough to employ.”

        This topic came up several months ago when clericalism was being discussed: if a priest can make his own tweaks to the liturgy (e.g. adapting the Ecce Agnus Dei to the liturgical readings of the day, or to his own theme for the day), what’s to prevent a person in the pew from tweaking his response in return?

        “This is the Jesus we meet on the road to Emmaus. Happy are we for whom he breaks bread.”

        (An awkward side effect of such variation is that the congregation doesn’t always know when the end of the priest’s statement has come.)

        What’s preventing someone from responding, “Lord, I am foolish, but my heart is burning within me”?

        *Satire alert*

        Or how about, “Lord, I am already quite full [not having fasted before Mass], but I suppose I could make room for you.”

      6. JP – I like your sense of humor.

        It drives me up the wall when celebrants screw up the text which is supposed to cue the congregation’s response. When I hear, “The Lord is with each of you,” I want to shout back before the congregation can reply: “Hey, and with you too, Father!” Fortunately, in a monastery priests don’t toy around much with their texts– probably because they have to live with many of the people who are replying to them.

        awr

      7. Fr Ruff

        Oh, the stupid “The Lord is with you!” substitution for “The Lord be with you”

        How on earth some twit somewhere decided it was better to substitute a statement of fact for a blessing has eluded me, lo these many years. (I suspect that twit believed it would somehow make the PIPs have more faith in the genuine presence of the Lord in their gathering without the need of a cleric to call it down, as it were, but it’s something that he did not think through enough – unripe ideas being a common enough problem in this area).

        Facts I got already. Blessings I need. Please, God, a blessing…

      8. +JMJ+

        Jack, I quite agree with you.

        I wonder, though, if the sung “Amen” should be melodically related to the Doxology or to the entire Eucharistic Prayer. The Sanctus and the acclamation after Mysterium fidei are far more complex melodically than the Preface Dialogue, Preface, Canon, and Doxology. Should the “Amen” be simple (to match the majority of the Eucharistic Prayer, e.g. ‘simple’ or ‘solemn/festal’ tone) or complex (to match the Mass setting of the Sanctus and acclamation)?

        Again, I’m not a musician, so I may very well be out of my league (and gourd!) here.

      9. Jeffrey,

        I think there is something more than music that is going on not only in the sung Eucharistic Prayer but in all the liturgies at this particular parish.

        The pastor of this parish has a very good sense of style and pacing in everything that he oversees liturgically. I would use the words “noble simplicity” to describe the style, not in the sense of slavishly doing what was done in the EF but in the sense of making the OF both as noble and as simple as it can be.

        The parish never sings either the Preface or the Lord’s Prayer. I would probably want to do both but then my tastes are more Byzantine. But not doing them heightens the Eucharistic Prayer.

        The people stand during the Eucharistic Prayer, and it is sung at a fairly rapid pace which gives it a strong unity. The whole process centers one’s attention completely.

        One of the problems of the OF is that there are so many options that it is hard to create a strong sense of ritual (knowing what comes next) if one is always using a lot of different options and mixing them up.

        Liturgies in this parish are always highly predictable. A lot of options are not used. When they are used they are very predictable, e.g. Advent and/or Lent. Some times less is more. I think this pastor is on to something.

  5. Michael,
    As I read your post, I am led to understanding that faith-filled pragmatism is not a matter of disregarding official texts or claiming license to “tinker,” but is rather a pragmatic disposition with which to encourage the embrace of the new translation and ritual modalities that will accompany it. In other words, the manner in which implementation and catechesis is approached will either breed unity or disunity, the latter the sure result of using the text as ammunition to indict anyone or group of people who have ever “tinkered” for any reason whatsoever. On the contrary, the pragmatist will focus attention on that which is beautiful in the new translation, trusting that the Beautiful will convert more surely than the point of a gun. Am I at all following your argument for pragmatism?

    1. Dear Kevin,

      You said what I meant to say!

      I think my wandering ruminations are based on a few things. First, I think we need to give ourselves permission to wrestle with the text for a while. Second, I’d be cautious about holding to the notion that this text will be used by every parish and every priest in the US. I tried to show how flexible we have been in the past. Saying this is not dissent, it’s pragmatism. Third, I do welcome the text as a “check up” of sorts. When music was my main area of focus in a worship office, I recall the number of calls and comments I received about the new GIRM a few years ago; namely the dozen or so people who said something like: “I see the new GIRM wants the communion music to start as soon as the priest receives. How does the cantor or organist go to communion?” Apparently, my good colleagues never knew this same directive was in the earlier GIRM. They had either forgotten, or most likely never read it to begin with. So the new text will cause us to be hyper sensitive for a while and cause us to say good bye to some things and practices probably worth retiring anyway. I think many people were surprised that there was no “grandfather” provision to gradually phase the two texts out and in. So let’s commit to teaching the new text. Let’s not be surprised if we hear both texts being used. In time, the new text will win. And if not, well…that says something.

  6. Kevin Vogt :

    I’m sure this is true, but I have certainly known instances where such capitalization has borne the brand of piety and has been used to impugn impious motives of those who do not capitalize words in this manner, regardless of the fact that this has not been a convention in ritual books or scriptural texts for quite some time. Acknowledging that this was not your intent, it is not implausible that such a change in the printed text could result from such motives. It’s not a big deal, but it certainly would amplify Mr. Silhavy’s argument that tinkering (subtle to some, dramatic to others) happens all the time, like it or not.

    I still disagree with what you guys are trying to get at, but (after checking) the Catholic Prayer book I got as a gift when I was little has “Him” capitalized for almost everything but the “Order of Mass” section. That’s probably where I picked that convention up.

  7. Some may call it pragmatism. Others call it dissidence.

    Sacrosanctum Concilium, 22.3: “Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.”

  8. I think the paraphrasing of sung texts at Mass certainly comes from the 1970’s mindset that you could do almost anything you wanted with the texts of the Mass. How many parishes substituted some banal “Glory and Praise” hymn, with a refrain to it, for the Responsorial Psalm? Or used a non-Biblical text for one of the readings? At my seminary in the 1970’s, we sang the Great Amen with these words:
    Yes, Lord, Amen, we sing, Yes, Lord, Amen! which was repeated ad nauseam. I do remember one of our seminary priests stating publicly that just a simple “Amen” was chanted at this point for almost two thousand years, until the seminary changed it to Yes Lord! Let’s pray that the new translation will lead to music that is faithful to it not concoctions that are para-phrases or worse. And yes, I have heard priests say “Let’s pray” instead of “Let us pray” at Mass! And can any of us who heard it forget, “The Lord is WITH You” instead of “The Lord BE with you?”

  9. “How many parishes substituted some banal “Glory and Praise” hymn, with a refrain to it, for the Responsorial Psalm?”

    Not many. Responsorial formats were what took root almost everywhere, even though the GIRM permits metrical paraphrases of psalms.

    “Or used a non-Biblical text for one of the readings?”

    Only at the Office of Readings.

  10. Perhaps many of the examples in this post are examples of the “organic evolution” of the liturgy on the model of language as in Kimberly’s post of August 30th.

    We may mandate changes in texts, and have them universally the same in all books, but that does not mean that actual language practice will change precisely in lock step, especially when the texts are very similar, and especially today when the language of many people (ministers, choir, people) needs to change.

    Even though some of the changes in songs and even in the liturgy in the past few decades were introduced for musical or ideological reasons rather than as changes in the text, the reception of those changes worked out in practice much like any language changes would. Some were widely accepted in practice and others were not.

    In other words even when someone wants change for whatever reason, when there is an existing language practice, that practice changes slowly not instantaneously

    I think Michael is suggesting that we be patient and attentive to the “natural” language processes that go on, and pragmatically learn from them rather than use them as examples of “errors”, and use our increased understanding of language change processes and what is working to facilitate better catechesis and better liturgy on the practice level.

    Perhaps if we did this well in this implementation, we might discover better ways to revise texts that anticipate language reception in the future.

  11. To Todd re Responsorial Psalms and non-Biblical readings.

    i would take issue with that on both counts. For years, in three parishes in different parts of the country; songs from G&P were regularly used in place of the psalms. A whole diocese ( not to be named) encouraged that practice in official documents.

    I can recall in the mid 80s that non biblical readings were regularly substituted at Sunday masses, at weddings and funerals. This was said to expand the “consciousness” of the tradition and the current state of affairs. i came to know the writings of Dorothy Day in that context (which I never regret). In this particular region of the country it was common practice. Thankfully, I understand it has changed.

  12. “Is there supposed to be another version?”

    This from my childhood:

    “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands, for the praise and glory of His name, for our good, and that of all His Holy Church.”

  13. I have been reading these various comments with great interest, and I’d like to share a few thoughts:

    Concerning musician’s choices at masses in the 70’s, I was one of these musicians, and I had no liturgical training or guidance when my pastor asked me (at 14 years old) to start choosing the music and playing the organ for 4 Sunday masses each week (for free, BTW). I made the best choices I could, and learned as I went along. I think it’s wrong to assume that everyone in the 70’s was engaged in a “free for all/everything goes” attitude. Remember, when the new mass started, we were given no formation, so we figured it out on our own. Did I make some bad choices that I would never do today? Heck yeah! But when I learned better, I changed and made better choices.

    Concerning text additions for the mass propers; this has now become a non issue, since ICEL will not approve any revised translation musical settings that stray from the official text. Only the repetition of words or phrases for the sake of the music are being allowed. Of course, what any one parish chooses to sing is beyond ICEL’s control. However, the Catholic publishers will not be allowed to publish any masses settings that do not use the official translation of the Roman Church. And older settings that are not revised will be put permanently out of print (POP in publisher’s jargon).

  14. Anthony Ruff, OSB :
    JP – I like your sense of humor.
    It drives me up the wall when celebrants screw up the text which is supposed to cue the congregation’s response. When I hear, “The Lord is with each of you,” I want to shout back before the congregation can reply: “Hey, and with you too, Father!” Fortunately, in a monastery priests don’t toy around much with their texts– probably because they have to live with many of the people who are replying to them.
    awr

    Another variant from my recent past: “The Peace of the Lord be with each and every one of you,” to which I always felt like responding, “And also with each and every one of your split personalities.”

    “And with your Spirit” will certainly help me to avoid an occasion for sin.

  15. I hear my share of Fr. Ad Libitum, especially among priests aged 50 and over. I think that most of them chose their “style” and made their adaptations back in the day and have repeated their adaptations like a broken record ever since. I wish there were a service that would record a presider’s words, list and count up all of the adaptations they make, and give them a report. I bet many presiders would be surprised at the results since they have been doing it that way for decades and have become so comfortable. I’m not proposing that they be thrown in liturgical prison, but merely made aware of their peculiar habits.

  16. I agree with Scott. In a regulated business we try very hard to comply with all rules and regulations applicable: there are compliance officers to check that we do so and auditors to report on whether we do. So when I hear clergy ignore rubrics and alter the texts of the Mass I wonder at how their observance of rules can be so lax.
    Another point is that for those who follow the Mass in a missal every departure from the text distracts one from the prayer. However well meant a departure from the authorised text will bring some disadvantage.

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