OR YEARS I have been one of the many people trying to describe the “Spin the Wheel for Hymns” game played almost universally in our churches. For one reason or another, our efforts at explanation have not been all that successful, but let me briefly try one more time. Basically, the Church assigns special prayers to each and every Mass. Most go back at least 1500 years and have been set to some of the world’s most sublime melodies. These prayers are called the Propers. Taking advantage of a loophole in Church legislation, a very large percentage of Catholics replace all of these Propers each Sunday. They substitute hymns (or worse). The end result is that each Sunday is very much like a “Spin the Wheel” game where the music director says, over and over, “What hymns do I feel like hearing today? What hymns do I feel like playing today? What theological message do I feel ought to be proclaimed today?”
Before anybody gets angry at my tone, please realize that I, myself, often do this. It has become so common, it will be hard to fix.
Indiscriminately replacing 100% of the Propers 100% of the time may not seem like a big deal, but it actually is. It is the de facto destruction of the Roman Rite, because all of a sudden the Rite becomes . . . whatever anybody feels like each week! Everyone is free to choose as he likes. The Rite becomes nothing more than a reflection of the personal tastes and whims of each music director.
However, the following video gives me hope. I was given permission to post it on the condition that the singers and location remain anonymous. Basically, it is sung by a bunch of really young Catholics who are trying to sing the Propers each week, in a simplified English version called the “Simple English Propers.” Very few members of the group read music, and they rely heavily on the videos provided free of charge by CCW. Here’s the live recording from this Sunday’s Mass:
As far as I am concerned, this group is sounding pretty good for starting out just recently! And I think as the years go by they will get better and better. They are “praying” the Mass. They are not “replacing” the Mass. Good for them.
Some people may feel that getting away from the practice of “replacing” the Mass would be impossible. Perhaps they can be inspired by the life of Nick Vujicic. Nick was born lacking legs and arms, but has done amazing things. If you do a Google search, you will find thousands of videos about Nick, and here is one example: