About this blogger:
Richard J. Clark has served since 1989 as Music Director and Organist at Saint Cecilia Church in Boston, Massachusetts. He is also Chapel Organist (Saint Mary’s Chapel) at Boston College. For the Archdiocese of Boston, he directed the Office of Divine Worship Saint Cecilia Schola. His compositions have been performed on four continents.
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“Iconographic tradition has theologically interpreted the manger and the swaddling cloths in terms of the theology of the Fathers. The child stiffly wrapped in bandages is seen as prefiguring the hour of his death: from the outset, he is the sacrificial victim, as we shall see more closely when we examine the reference to the first-born. The manger, then, was seen as a kind of altar.”
— Pope Benedict XVI (2012)

Do not mistake competence for conservatism.
published 15 May 2015 by Richard J. Clark

OST PEOPLE LIKE categories. Those who market products demand them. Likewise, we place labels upon each other. (I am guilty of this.) Then when we get to know someone or a situation more deeply, we may find they defy easy classification.

Interestingly, the more knowledgeable a musician is about the Roman Rite, the Vatican II documents, and the GIRM, the more likely that musician is to be labeled “conservative” in their views. This is viewed negatively in some circles and positively in others. This is nonsense. It should be viewed simply as professional competence—no more—no less.

Professional competence is precisely this: you know what you are doing and why you are doing it. And church musicians must do several things well all at once. Therefore, it is incumbent upon them to improve their skills in the following areas:

1 • Play, conduct, sing well.
2 • Know the Church Documents; know the liturgy.
3 • Teach and catechize well.
4 • Be an effective administrator.
5 • Be a pastoral leader with good people skills.

Cultivating and effectively integrating all of these areas takes years if not decades. All-around competence is a matter of professionalism, not ideology. Interestingly, while No. 2 is often viewed as “conservative,” No. 5 is viewed in some circles as “liberal” or “progressive.” This too is nonsense. A pastoral approach is one of the most important aspects of being competent. It must be exercised with at least equal weight with all other areas. I.e., If one has studied music and liturgy at a high level, so must one be highly pastoral.

ERHAPS ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE is the vow of obedience taken by priests. I happen to know some priests who dislike the new translation of the Roman Missal—some, quite vehemently. However, one would never know this by attending any masses they celebrate. They are doing what the Church is asking of them and doing it well. This is obedience. This is also professional competence. Their personal view or opinion did not come into play.

Likewise, musicians must temper their own personal tastes. I have musical interests that are well beyond the scope of this blog or the liturgy. As such, the Mass is not a showcase for my personal ideology or interests. Does such an idea make me conservative? Or do considering pastoral needs in my decisions make me liberal? I don’t care, and I am weary of such labels. But I hope this approach make me better at my job. I hope such views lead to prayer.