About this blogger:
Andrew Leung is a seminarian for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Steubenville, Ohio. He has served as Director of Music at St. Pius X Church (Atlanta) and taught Gregorian chant at the Cistercian Monastery of the Holy Spirit (Georgia). For two years, he will be studying in Macau, China.
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“Worse, composers are now setting the introits of the missal [instead of the Graduale] to music, even to chant, though these texts were explicitly for spoken recitation only.”
— Dr. William Mahrt (Fall, 2015)

A Liturgical Tragedy
published 5 October 2017 by Andrew Leung

CTL Liturgical Tragedy EWS TRAVELS QUICKLY with the technology and power of media nowadays. I was saddened to see the tragedy happened in Las Vegas, and two days in a row, it was the top story on the cover page of the local newspaper in Hong Kong. I am praying for all the victims and their families, and for the end to violence.

As I am praying, this scripture verse (Matthew 10:28) came up in my mind:

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.

As a seminarian, I constantly remind myself about the priestly mission of saving souls—and it is also a mission of the Church. Sometimes, there are tragedies in the Church that prevent us from saving people souls, like the recent reactions to Amoris Laetitia, as well as many “fights” on other ethical issues, as well as the ongoing liturgical war.

Sir James MacMillan, the famous Scottish composer and founder of Musica Sacra Scotland, just wrote an article on Standpoint and shared his tragic story of dealing with the liturgical war. He mentions that some clerics and laypeople—who embrace the idea of “modernizing” and “democratization” of religious idea and practice—dislike hearing professionally-written music in the liturgy because it sounds old-fashioned, even though the pieces might been composed by a contemporary classical composer. He talks about how church music is suffering because of the “spirit of Vatican II”:

In the 1970s many well-intentioned types thought that such “folk” music and pop culture derivatives would appeal to teenagers and young people and get them more involved in the Church, when the exact opposite has happened. It is now thought that these trendy experiments in music and liturgy have contributed to the increasing risible irrelevance of liberal Christianity, and that liturgy as social engineering has repulsed many. Like most ideas shaped by 1960s Marxist ideology it has proved an utter failure. Its greatest tragedy is the wilful, disingenuous de-poeticisation of Catholic worship. The Church has simply aped the secular West’s obsession with “accessibility”, “inclusiveness”, “democracy” and anti-elitism, resulting in the triumph of bad taste, banality and a deflation of the sense of the sacred in the life of the church.

In another paragraph, he also wrote about his bad experience during Benedict’s papal visit to the UK in 2010. He was asked to write a congregational Mass setting for the outdoor papal Mass. And many were against him, because they believed his “classical” composition to be not pastoral, claiming it would ruin the Mass for the “grass-roots” parishioners.

I’ve given up the liturgy wars since. I stepped back from parish music involvement and now just sit in the pews, suffering with the rest of the Catholic faithful. I still love writing for choirs, though, and from the sidelines I encourage the application of Gregorian chant in simple, vernacular ways, as well as in Latin.

I believe that his experience is just one of the many tragic stories. I have experienced a similar situation before, and it was definitely not a pleasant experience. Let us continue to pray for the Church, especially for the unity within her. And let us be charitable to one another as we work under guidance of the Holy Spirit.