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Andrew Motyka is the Archdiocesan Director of Liturgical Music and Cathedral Music for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
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“Place the missal in the hand of the faithful so that they may take part more easily and more fruitfully in the Mass; and that they faithful, united with the priest, may pray together in the very words and sentiments of the Church.”
— Ven. Pope Pius XII

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Truth, Beauty, and Pop Culture, Part 1
published 3 February 2015 by Andrew R. Motyka

PRETTY REGULARLY take stances on things that are out-of-sync with my peers. It probably has to do with the fact that I was never the Cool Kid in school, or maybe that I’m a Patriots fan. Regardless of whether or not my opinions are shared by others, though, I would like to think that they are at least based on some thought and consideration, and not simply on reaction against the norm.

Lately, I have been thinking of truth, and how it relates to both beauty and the overall appeal of a subject. According to the Catechism:

Truth is beautiful in itself. Truth in words, the rational expression of the knowledge of created and uncreated reality, is necessary to man, who is endowed with intellect. But truth can also find other complementary forms of human expression, above all when it is a matter of evoking what is beyond words: the depths of the human heart, the exaltations of the soul, the mystery of God. [CCC 2500]

It is my opinion that communication and art can be truthful even when the creator doesn’t intend it that way. In other words, an author or artist might intend for their creation to make a particular statement, but end up unintentionally saying something else. Take, for example, a recently popular pop song, “Take Me to Church,” by Hozier. Turn on any popular radio station for 15 minutes and you’ll hear it. When I first heard it, I thought, “Boy, is he singing the living daylights out of that song.” My opinion of it turned when I heard the lyrics:

My Church offers no absolutes
She tells me, 'Worship in the bedroom.’
The only heaven I’ll be sent to
Is when I’m alone with you—

I was born sick,
But I love it
Command me to be well
Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen.

The entire song is drawing a parallel between having sex with his girlfriend and religious worship. Blasphemous, right? Absolutely. However, when I heard the song more, it occurred to me that the songwriter was unintentionally saying something that is true. Does the person singing this song sound like he is happy? No, he is self-admittedly sick, and looking for a cure in the wrong place. He is worshiping a false god. There is truth here, and hence beauty, even if the singer doesn’t intend it that way. How many of us have searched for fulfillment in things that do not satisfy, only to be left hungrier in the end?

Yes, on the surface, this song is blasphemous, but it also tells a truth about human nature.

Tune in next week, when I will explain why, along these same lines, I strongly dislike Game of Thrones. Warm up your Nerd Rage.