About this blogger:
A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), where he also did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife and two children.
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“In all this mediaeval religious poetry there is much that we could not use now. Many of the hymns are quite bad, many are frigid compositions containing futile tricks, puns, misinterpreted quotations of Scripture, twisted concepts, whose only point is there twist. But there is an amazing amount of beautiful poetry that we could still use.”
— Rev. Adrian Fortescue (d. 1923)

The Gather Hymnal
published 24 June 2013 by Jeff Ostrowski

ROWING UP in the 1990s, I missed a lot of the “liturgy wars.” I will forever be grateful to my parents who remained faithful to the Church, no matter how many scandals they witnessed along the way. It’s no secret that a great many people tried to harm the Church from within following the Council. What I am only just now beginning to realize is how creative some of these people were! Perhaps “creative” is not the right word. Let me describe a few instances, and the reader can devise his own word.

Just think about the very title, the very name, of one of the most popular Catholic hymnals: “Gather.” Without going into conspiracy theories, ponder that title. Is the emphasis not obvious? Mass is all about us. Our “gathering” is what’s important. Forget about the Sacrifice of Calvary, forget about the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. The main emphasis is placed on the fact that we, the important, highly-evolved, 21st-century people are taking time to “gather” with other important, highly-evolved, 21st-century people.

Perhaps I’m the odd man out here. Perhaps I’m the one whose religious sense is skewed. But let me be clear: growing up, especially on those occasions we attended the Extraordinary Form, I never thought about the act of “gathering.” I thought about Christ. I thought about my sins. I thought about the precious gift of the Mass. I engaged in silent reflection and adoration of God. I thought about how transient life’s pleasures are. I thought about many things, but not “gathering.”

I suppose the enlightened “piccoluomini” will be tempted to chime in and explain Matthew 18:20 (“Where two or three are gathered together . . .”), but such an explanation is not needed. I fully believe and accept Matthew 18:20, a truly beautiful and important verse, as the Catholic Church explains it, but here I am speaking of emphasis.

LET US CONSIDER another example: kneeling. When I was little, I heard my parents talk about people trying to “get rid of kneeling during Mass.” I said to myself, “Yeah, right. Take a chill pill. Who would ever get rid of kneeling at Church? C’mon.”

Well, it turns out this movement is still alive. I received via Email (from a reader who will remain anonymous) the following comment, made on 30 May 2013, by the former president of Universa Laus, an organization specifically requested to “dissolve itself” by Pope Paul VI:

The desire to get people onto their knees shows a one-sided view of history, both liturgical and general. Standing is a sign of respect, whereas kneeling is a sign of self-abasement. We don’t kneel down when the President or the Queen enters the room, we stand out of respect. Yes, we bow to both of those, and ladies curtsey when presented, but we don’t kneel or kiss feet. If Jesus entered the room, we’d be on our feet in an instant. I have little time for a mediaeval posture which is to a large extent a distortion of the traditional prayer postures of the Church.

LET ME SAY AGAIN: I couldn’t even dream up some of this stuff! Another piccoluomini movement I remember hearing about in the 1990s was NAAC (“No Adoration At Communion”). It turns out NAAC is also still around. One of the signers of the Snowbird Statement on Catholic Liturgical Music wrote on 12 October 2012:

There are fourteen hymns contained in the section titled “Blessed Sacrament.” These hymns are meant to be sung at communion and/or Benediction. I see this as a major theological gaffe. Hymns that memorialize the sacrificial meal of Jesus should be distinct from those intended for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The communion bread at Mass is not appropriately called the Blessed Sacrament, [Huh?!!] a term reserved for the adoration of the element in the context of Benediction. The two are indissolubly linked, of course, but they are two distinct moments in Catholic liturgical life and devotion. The editors should have made a clear distinction between the two.

AS A CHILD, I was taught about the transcendence of God. At Mass, time seemed to stop. It was all about peaceful prayer and adoration. It was contemplative. Statements like the following, by Fr. William Bauman (former Chairman of the Music Committee of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions) would never occur to me:

These would not be destined to go into a hymnal, for by their very nature as popular music, they finally pass out of popularity. They would, however, be able to be quickly used by those who make their own hymnals, quickly printed in periodical publications while they are still fresh and useful. [source]

More strange quotes can be found here. One such quote:

The hootenanny Mass can give explicit eucharistic and christological specification to youth’s intense involvement in the movements for racial justice, for control of nuclear weapons, for the recognition of personal dignity.

IN THE WORDS OF VANESSA WILLIAMS, I have “saved the best for last.” The winner is Fr. Frederick McManus, who once made the following claim. Note in particular the mental gymnastics necessary to twist the clear meaning of the Second Vatican Council (Sacrosanctum Concilium, §36):

“Although it is not the original language of the Roman rite by any means, [Excuse me, but who EVER made such a claim??] the Latin language is here acknowledged to have the first or principal place, and as such it is to be retained. It may be that in some areas the retention will simply mean employing the Latin texts as the basis for translating into the vernacular [!!!!!], at least in the case of those parts of the Roman rite which are themselves original, such as the collects.”