Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Commentary on the new office at CDW for music, art, and architecture

Michelangelo's masterpiece in the Vatican inspires us to contemplate the mysteries of our faith

It has been my belief for some years now, that in many quarters of the church, the mystery being celebrated has been hidden behind "noise" - both audible and visual.  What has been lost is the contemplative dimension of worship, which is hindered by such noise.  God cannot be heard in the soul above this noise.  We should be able to step out of our noisy world into a place that stills the restless soul enough to hear God.

Mass is suppose to lift us in ways the secular world cannot.  Music, art, and architecture should drive us to ponder the mysteries of our faith.  What we experience when we step into a church should not be self-seeking, but should lead us to seek the Face of God.  In this way, we say to Him: This is your hour and I a giving myself to You, unconditionally. When we let go of the world, it becomes easier to hear the voice of God above all others.

The Holy See has come to the same conclusion, probably long before me, but now it is doing something about it.  Deo gratias!

From Vatican Insider...

The Vatican Secretariat of State has approved the reorganization of the Congregation for Divine Worship. A new office for liturgical music,art and architecture has been established


Congregation of Divine Worship undergoes reform

The Secretariat of State agreed on the Congregation's restructuring last 3 September with Benedict XVI's approval: the reorganization of the Congregation of Divine Worship involved the creation of new offices that will  become operational as of next year. The main change is the establishment of an office, specifically dedicated to liturgical art and music (which Vatican Insider predicted in a previous article), which will provide guidelines to ensure that hymns sung during mass and the structure of new churches are adequate and correspond to the mystery being celebrated.

Continue reading at Vatican Insider... 

The Mass is not about what we get, but about what we give to God.  When we do this right, we do get something - graces and a closer relationship with Christ; when we do this wrong, we get self-entertainment and a distancing from Christ. This, in my opinion, has led to people believing they don't need Mass because their focus is not on giving, but on getting. If the only time someone goes to Mass is when they feel like there is something for them to get, Mass becomes self-serving.  What they don't understand is that worship should be unconditional and God-centered. We give glory to God with no strings attached.   Music, art and architecture all contribute to our right, or wrong, understanding about worship.

There is also the problem of sterile parish environments.  You walk into a parish and find it devoid of anything remotely Catholic.  They are sterile in that they do not lend themselves to meditation.  Is it any wonder why so many people talk in church, so much so, that the decibels rival those found at an indoor mall on a Saturday afternoon? These environments don't distract us from the secular and lift us into the spiritual. Some parishes are so sterile the soul reads them like a business environment.  The only thing missing are the cubicles.

I've witnessed a number of parishes undergoing transformations, so some pastors get it.   A few years ago, my geographical parish lost it's unrecognizable green, blob-like representation of the Blessed Virgin Mary that had been there for about 35 years.  Gone, around the same time, was the olive-green, Borg spaceship-style tabernacle. The current pastor rescued truly beautiful replacements from inner city parishes that had closed. I think we will see more of this, going forward.

As the 70's ushered in "folk Masses" the great parish choirs were lost.  My childhood parish had one of the finest choirs in town. Like in most parishes, it no longer exists.  Dozens of volunteers who participated in this great art form were left out in the cold as music directors, with no ability to direct them, took over and left us a few vocalists and a piano or guitar.  Chant, which was to be retained, was rendered to the monasteries. Even in many of them, it was set aside.  In the meanwhile, the secular world has discovered chant and has made it popular... except in most Catholic parishes.  Go figure.

Truth be told,  I do enjoy some good acoustic guitar music with nice vocals;  I just prefer them outside of Mass. I've heard some very talented players and gifted singers at Masses through the years.  I think our many talented musicians who play these instruments could give us wholesome music to which we can listen outside of Mass, with secular and spiritual lyrics.  It would fill a void left for people like me who have difficulty listening to music with lyrics that lift vice and shun virtue.

I look forward to what we will learn in the years to come through this new office at the Congregation for Divine Worship.

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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church;
it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!

- Diane M. Korzeniewski

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ATT said...

From an art history major: the painting is Raphael's "Disputa" (Disputation over the Sacrament). Just in the interest of accuracy...

Lauraleigh Monterey said...

What great good fortune to have been sent a link to your blog by a friend! This news is SO welcome, I can hardly stand it.

I am prompted to reply to the idea of going to Mass to give, not to get. Let me just say that the suffering need healing, and Mass should be their safe harbor. When you’re sick in soul, sick at heart, you cannot give. When you’re almost dead, you cannot give. You need comfort and kindness. You need understanding, and a safe place to be. You need Jesus.

There was a time in my life when I was almost dead, and I needed Jesus, but I was having a hard time finding Him. I lost my faith, and lived without God for over 10 years. About six years ago, on the Damascus Road, I came back and have been so glad. However, I did not integrate gracefully into my parish, and now suffer from terrible loneliness. I am almost in the same situation I was in before that led to my rejection of the Faith, but not quite.

To those who hear that you go to Mass to give, not to get, I do not disagree, but I would say this: Not everyone can because not everyone is well. When you are sick, go to the doctor. When your soul is sick, go see the Great Physician. If you do nothing but plead, don’t worry. He hears you. He loves you. Although you are in anguish and cannot offer him the thanksgiving He deserves, He knows, and He forgives you before you ask. Believe in Him. He believes in you. This is what the sick need to hear.

When you are well, gratitude will flood in like a flame. There won’t be anything more for you to do when that great consolation comes, for you will be able to make your thanksgiving without struggle, pain, or quandary. It will be as if a great light had come on, and thanksgiving will rise up on your heart of its own accord. At this point, you will feel like singing, and thankfully, it looks like the re-org at the CDW will help you do that beautifully. Finally.

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!

LauraLeigh Monterey

deepoctave said...

Diane, my parish has a very active and excellent choir for the 9 am Mass. An ensemble which includes keyboard, guitar, bass, djembae, violin, clarinet and vocalists serves at the 1030 a.m. Mass. Both belong in the service of the Catholic Church at Mass. To exclude either expression is to cease to be catholic.

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...

ATT - Thanks for that piece of information.

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...


Going to Mass involves both giving and receiving.

First, we would not have the first interior movement to go to Mass if we did not receive a grace from God to do so.

Second, we need to ask, "What is worship?" Worship is giving glory to God. Every breath we take is because God gives us life. The First Commandment is to love the Lord Our God. We do this by following all Commandments, but also by giving God his due in worship.

Third, those who are physically unable to go to Mass, either by age or infirmity, are not bound to go to Mass. But, in their illness they should unite their sufferings to Christ for the good of the Church (Col 1:24). Others who are not bound, would be those with incapacitating mental illness or the mentally impaired. This is something left to one's Confessor, if in doubt.

Fourth, worship is not something we do when we feel like it which is what I was getting at. That makes it conditional on our convenience. Worship of God becomes a consolation prize if going to the mass with friends or to a football game didn't work out. It is precisely when we least feel like being at Mass, and when we least feel we are giving to God our all that God cherishes our giving ourselves to him. When we are children and we see our mother caring for us, feeding us, despite her own illness, we don't appreciate it until we are older and wonder, "how did she do it?"

Fifth, worship must be understood in the context of the spiritual life as a whole. It is good to study something like the Way of Perfection by St. Teresa of Avila. Here, we learn that spiritual dryness and aridity are part of the spiritual journey. Many souls, lacking proper spiritual direction, and with little or no discussion on these things from the pulpit, think something is wrong when spiritual dryness occur. They do not know how to respond to it, and thus, end up throwing in the towel. I know because I did that due to my own ignorance at the time and it nearly cost me my faith, and my soul. Another great thing to read for spiritual direction is the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales.

It is in giving that we receive (Prayer of St. Francis)

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...


The first thing I want to address is the last thing you said and I hope you will take some time to reflect on this. Hopefully, you did not intend it to come out the way it did.

You said, "To exclude either expression is to cease to be catholic."

What makes us Catholic? It's not music. Reflect on that.

I trust that anyone else commenting on this question or offering their thoughts will do so with charity.

Secondly, I think you missed the point I was trying to make, but perhaps I didn't make it well enough.

It is not so much what is happening, but what is not happening when it comes to sacred music. Gregorian Chant was suppose to be given pride of place, according to Sacrosanctum Concilium - Vatican II's constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. Some people can travel 500 mies and not find a parish that offers chant.

LIkewise sacred polyphony, which is also mentioned in that document - in the context of the Church's treasures - is also missing in most parishes. Many parishes today offer contemporary music exclusively, having cast aside a great treasury of sacred polyphony. Many have grown up with no exposure to it so they have no idea what they are missing. What lifted souls up for centuries was put at the curb like trash (and anyone showing a hint of wanting it was persecuted or made to feel stupid and outdated. I know this from personal experience and I'm sure many can tell stories.)

When it comes to the style of music and instruments, it's not a question of what you or I want, but what the Church wants. The bishops of Holy See has the grace of office so I will be very interested in learning what they have to say in the coming years, as I'm sure you will. Let's both be open to the workings of the Holy Spirit.

Lauraleigh Monterey said...

Thanks for you reply, Diane. I felt I understood your position, which you clarified, but I wasn't talking about physical illness. Anyway... I guess we all make our own way through this. Thanks for your blog.

bj said...

I hear this same argument over and over, from both sides of the aisle. Mass is not about getting it's about giving to God. It's not about what what we want it's about what God wants. I agree 100%. I think that most people do.

After making that statement, however, a person will always tell you the only to worship is they way that THEY prefer to worship. Has to be an organ, has to be guitar, has to be gregorian chant, has to be contempory praise, we must be comtemplative, we must be outgoing.

Everyone claims to know the only worthy means of worship to God. As if to say. what YOU like has no place here. What makes you so sure God doesn't want a guitar at his mass. What makes you so sure he doesn't want teenagers doing hand motions to contemporary praise songs? what makes you so sure he wouldn't rather have his children talking to each other in the moments leading up to mass? rather than sitting and meditating quietly.

I can meditate at home. Mass is about communion. is communion the body of Christ coming together to ignoring each other and praying solitarily to God?

by the way, I'd ask different questions to the people who say the only way to worship is through "folk" masses.

my point is, people always say mass isn't about what we want it's about what God wants. And somehow, what God wants always seems to match their own needs.

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...


Prayers and hugs. I kind of thought you grasped it, but I got some mixed signals.

If you haven't read the two books I mentioned, do so. St Francis de Sales is especially a good place to start if you haven't read the Devout Life. You can find versions of it readable online. He is so gentle. Reading both books, for me, was like having those saints in the room with me.

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...


Since I'm on a quick lunch break I can't fully respond. I once thought similarly as you do now, but prayer, reading, priests and much grace gave me a different understanding.

I hope we can both agree that Holy Mother Church is the ultimate interpreter of her own documents. I'm going to continue reading the old documents, and the new that come out, with an open mind. There is what is called the hermeneutic of continuity. You may have heard Pope Benedict mention this, and the hermeneutic of rupture. The Church doesn't change teachings, but we can get greater clarity with time. Likewise, things like the Mass want to evolve organically. After Vatican 2, there was a rupture, whereby some, misinterpreting the council documents, or doing things in the name of the council that are not found in the documents, changed things in an inorganic way. This has resulted in the division and confusion you speak of (among other divisions spawned in the wake of these perversions of Vatican 2).

Many bishops, along with the Holy See are trying to help Catholics to understand the real Vatican 2. It helps to read the actual council documents. It's not enough to stop there. Look for authentic interpretations of what is in those documents from the respective congregations and popes.

I want to address the issue of silence in Church, and some other things. I may do so in a separate post, so check back.

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...

I should mention, in all transparency, I played, and sung in a contemporary parish ensemble a few years. I now prefer chant and sacred polyphony (time-tested classics, for their theological richness). Sadly, many others who are uplifted by these things that Sacrosanctum Concilium gave pride of place, simply cannot be found.

NBW said...

I agree, there are lots of parishes that are devoid of beautiful Catholic art. It is precisely this reason that I have decided to put aside landscape painting and start painting Catholic art like the Assumption of the Virgin Mary,various saints and more.

deepoctave said...

Because I don't like lengthy postings in comment boxes, I try to set an example, but I can see that terseness in my initial post did not serve clarity. No lack of charity was intended! I hope I can show what I meant.
First, I agree with you: let us be open to the what the Holy Spirit is saying to us through his apostolic teachers. I look forward to learning what is intended by "pride of place" for our precious and ancient musical heritage. I treasure it, and like you, I have endured unkind comments about chant, etc. I wholeheartedly agree that music is not what makes us Catholic. Responding unconditionally to Christ joins us to His Church. The more deeply we give ourselves to Him and receive His life, the more we will be drawn to and connected with His people.
What I mean by "to exclude either expression is to cease to be catholic" (small c) is this: Being composed of all nations, tribes, times and languages, the Catholic Church naturally takes into Herself a universality of all that is good and worthy, including the great variety of musical expression. To my knowledge, although the Church has taught wisely about how musical expression can be used in liturgy, I am not aware of any definitive pronouncements that have excluded or banned either particular musical instruments or genres of music per se. So, to ban or exclude the guitar or the organ from the Mass would be a denial of the universality of the Church's nature (i.e., to cease to be catholic, or universal).
When you used the phrase "outside of Mass" to refer to these expressions, it was unclear to me how much you consider this to be a personal preference, and how much you think it ought to be applied as an exclusive rule for musical expression in the liturgy. And, I guess, that is what the discussion is about.
Also in the interest of fair disclosure, I am a member of the 10:30 ensemble I described above, but I am a classically trained musician whose preferences weigh very heavily on the side of the music you seem to prefer. When the bishop asked us recently to provide the music for the area's Confirmation Mass in the local Catholic high school gymnasium, we joyfully served, but it wasn't with chant or Palestrina. Our group decided to produce a Christmas concert in our parish's school gym this year, with lots of old secular standards as well as a "Christmas rap" that one of the group had found. I asked that we also include Mozart's "Ave Verum Corpus", complete with string ensemble, even though it isn't a Christmas tune. So, I hope you understand I am with you in spirit.
I fervently hope and pray for the renewal of Church's liturgy and music in the liturgy. Some of the music chosen for the Mass at which I play and sing ought, in my opinion, to be neatly excised from the hymnal and never sung again, either in or out of Mass. But, I try to share these thoughts charitably with those in the group, and mostly, I offer it up and try to keep my own counsel out of charity.
There. I've done it. I've posted a lengthy comment! ;-)

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...


Thanks for the clarification. As one who is not gifted with brevity, don't worry about the length.

I think we share more than I first realized.

I know a number of organists, vocalists and musicians wanting very much to get into more classical liturgical music. They just need a parish to receive them. A younger generation is interested in chant (and some who are not so young). Thankfully, some seminaries, such as Sacred Heart here in Detroit, are teaching chant to seminarians. Someday, these men will pastor parishes and welcome the more classical.