ECENTLY Dan Craig wrote an article regarding the use—or lack thereof—of the Propers within the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, as well the practice of replacing the Propers with less than ideal texts.
In his closing statement, he opined: “I feel many of our present difficulties [he refers here to liturgical difficulties] would vanish if we simply followed the GIRM.” I agree with him wholeheartedly and confess that I find it rather odd that we tend to replace most of the Propers of the Mass (usually taken from Sacred Scripture) with songs that at best leave the believer in a confused theological state (I think of the text Sing a New Church Into Being). That being said, I don’t foresee those in authority publicly setting things aright any time soon. 1
To be honest, I think some of our clergy suffer from the same problem that many dads do, namely, they have lost all sense of what it means to lead as a father. A good father doesn’t raise his children by following the latest trends, but unfortunately that seems to be the rule of the day. What about the father who has a spiritual awakening and realizes that his family is far from where it needs to be? Should he merely resign himself to the fact that his family will never come closer to the good Lord? Sometimes good priests do the same thing. I have heard members of the clergy pass the buck and say they are waiting for their bishop to speak about the matter, or for the Church to take a stronger stance. The priest is waiting for the bishop, the bishop is waiting for the bishop’s conference, the bishop’s conference is waiting for Rome, and Rome is, well… You get the point.
Perhaps the only advise I can offer are a few points:
(1) Think of how far we have come regarding music in the Church, even in the last 20 years. I realize some readers feel the situations in their own parishes are hopeless, but take heart. There has been an explosion of interest in chant and other great liturgical music in the Church and the younger clergy are on board. Several years ago a good friend of mine was ordained for a rural diocese and asked me to provide music for his first Mass, which included the Simple English Propers and the English chants from the Roman Missal. Last May another friend was ordained who asked me to lead a Schola singing English Propers by Fr. Samuel Weber and Mass XIII. This year one of the seminarians from our parish is being ordained and he has asked that our parish’s Schola Cantorum sing the Propers from the Graduale Romanum and Juan Padilla’s Missa Ego flos campi for his first Mass. Take heart and be of good cheer. It won’t be long before one of these men comes to your parish.
(2) Priests, sing the Mass! You are the father of your congregation and you must lead by example. I don’t care if you can sing or not (I mean that sincerely). It will change the way your parish worships and will provide a welcoming environment for the propers.
(3) Start a choir school, especially if your parish already has a school. My parish graduates 50 students every year. In ten years that will be 500 students who love good liturgical music (Propers included) and know how to make it—and who will have been taught why the Propers are so important. Imagine how the liturgical landscape would change if even 100 parishes across the nation made the change. That would be 50,000 people in only 10 years! It is hard to beat an army that large.
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 Without question, some have taken steps in this area. For example, read the letter by Archbishop Alexander K. Sample.
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