Monday, May 13

And what is the point of the post below?Contrary to what some might think, I didn't post all of those dreadful little Moments in Catholic Liturgy to be snarky or superior. This is not about guitars, organs, backbeats, tempos or lyrics.

It's about prayer. The Mass is not only prayer, it is a unique prayer: the prayer of Christ to the Father to which our prayers our joined. The miracle of music is a part of that liturgy to enhance the prayer. Period. When it gets in the way instead, we've got ourselves a problem.

Here we go.

The question was, What are the lamest, most inappropriate secular songs you've heard at Mass? and weddings don't count.

The answers:

From Mark Shea: Our priest gave some dreadful sermon that closed with the lyrics of The Rose and then the pianist played it. Brrr.

Worse than that however was the insistence of the pianist on inserting Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" (a great jazz standard) into that one 5/4 time piece
of grooviness whose title eludes me but which goes

Come then all you nations

sing of the Lord 's goodness

melodies of praise and thanks to God

Ring out the Lord's glory

Praise him with your music

Worship him and bless his name.

I don't mind the song so much. At least we aren't singing to ourselves.But the pianist always made sure to stick in "Take 5" so that we could be
sure to take our minds off God and remember how clever she was.

From another reader:

The most wrong-headed piece of music I've ever heard at Mass is "It Is Not Easy Being Green," from the "Muppet Movie"

And another:

1. Of course, Joy to the World. There probably isn't a Catholic church that hasn't played that one. I've heard it dozens of times. [Ed: not the Christmas carol, mind you...]
2. A couple years ago, in St. Louis, I attended mass on the first Sunday of Advent. The opening hymn was "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord" from "Godspell." UGH!

Well...the play was about Jesus, no?

And how does it happen?

The worst case of inappropriate music during Mass was "Stairway to
Heaven".It was played during the time that the priest is distributing Holy Communion to the Eucharistic ministers. I was so stunned, I asked the teenager
next to me what the name of the song was. He was stunned as well. The teenager approached me after Mass and asked why a song about drug use was played during the Mass. I thought it was an excellent question, which the two of us posed to the pastor. His answer was to call the leader of the "folk group" over and ask him who approved the music. His answer was that the associate pastor had approved it. The pastor (who was not familiar enough with the music to realize what was played) tracked down the associate pastor and asked him why he had approved such a piece of trash for use during the Mass.The associate pastor of course had not approved that particular piece
ofmusic. The leader of the folk group eventually resigned as a result of this fiasco. So, the whole situation became a shining example of Romans 8:28.

More fun:

"He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" by the Hollies

Urban legend, with an added tale of lectionary shenanigans:

This is complete hearsay, so it may not count. Supposedly, the Newman Center in Chapel Hill, NC sang "Leaving on a Jet Plane" at the Feast of the Ascension.

One thing that DID happen a few years ago at St. Matthew's Cathedral (which normally has good liturgy) is that a guest deacon at the 8:30 mass on Palm Sunday decided to spice up the Passion by vocalizing sound effects while reading the narrative. When he got to the part about the cock crowing, he said, "BOINNNNGGGGG!"

To prove that this stuff is not ancient history - yet.

Sorry to say this, but just a few months ago (not the 70s, or the 60s, or the 80s) but just recently, my mom's parish in Connersville, Ind., allowed a lay person to do the homily, included was a rendition of her singing - then everyone joining hands and singing along - We Are Family.

Make sure you've swallowed your coffee before you read the next one:

I don't know if this qualifies since only the melody was appropriated -
Using the melody to "White Christmas" for the Our Father at Midnight Mass. Lahina, Maui, Hawaii, 1993. Yes, it works - sort of.

I'm sure she's not the only one for this one:

I remember hearing John Denver's "Follow Me" at guitar mass, it was a communion song, or maybe a contemplation song, I forget.

From the Catholic "Weird Al", Nick Alexander

Well, you know that "Lean On Me" made it to the Spirit + Song youth book, didn'tcha? didn't catch that news. Not suprised, though.

From my college friend Ed. This is funny because this is one of the memories that was echoing through my mind this morning as I was originally writing about this. I remembered the song, but I'd forgotten it was Ed who had to sing it. And because he's an old friend, he gets to violate the "no wedding" rule:

Regarding liturgical
music (rather, "music"), I think back to the most absurd song I ever sang at a wedding (and I'm sure you attended as well, although I can't for the life of me remember the name of the bride and groom),
[Ed: Nope. Face it. We're old.] "Climb Every Mountain". What's that about?? Talk about sexual.

Mike Hardy, who is an Actual Live Music Minister, adds, from his blog:

In grade school (I was in 2nd or 3rd grade at the
time) a band of 8th grade boys (who later became known as "Sweet Leaf" - a reference to pot) sang "Let It Be". Hey it did have a reference to "Mother Mary"
though I doubt the sisters or Fr. Walsh knew that was also a reference to pot.

When I was a high school senior, I visited Santa Clara University and attended mass there with my sister where we were once again treated to the work of the
great liturgical composer John Lennon - singing "Imagine" - touting what a great place the world would be if there were no heaven or no religion too.

The hymnal I currently use at the Newman Center where I sing has "Lean On Me" by Bill Whithers. Not as inappropriate at the two previous examples but in
spite of the fact that the kids love it, I ain't playin' it at mass!

Let's not forget another Beatle: I have heard "My Sweet Lord" several times at Mass, the musicians apparently either not understanding or caring that the "Lord" George Harrison's singing about isn't Jesus, but Krishna.

From the Yeah, that could be a problem file......

I wasn't there, but a friend who went to a Mass at St. Joseph's
University in Philadelphia (a university in the Jesuit Tradition) told me that there was a bit of an uproar after a priest used a CD player to play Creep by
Radiohead during a mass (it's a great song, BTW. I love Radiohead, just not during Mass). I've pasted the lyrics below. Note the F-Bomb used several times.

when you were here before,

couldn't look you in the eye

you're just like an angel

your skin makes me cry

you float like a feather

in a beautiful world

i wish i was special

you're so f****ing special

but i'm a creep

i'm a weirdo

what the hell am i doing here

i don't belong here

Oh good. Lets feed young adults' sense of alienation. Nice.

From another college friend, Meggan:

I don't remember the actual occasion - was it mass? A prayer service? I don't know. But I do remember that the theme was Jesus healing. Our elementary school class was part of the opening procession. We processed up the aisle to The Who's "See me... feel me.... touch me.... heal me..........."

Oh my word. That reminds me of reconciliation serviceds in my Catholic high school in the 1970's, with which I will forever associate with the music of the group Bread. I don't know why, but that's what they played for meditation while everyone was going to confession. Bizarre.

How about "I Don't Know How to Love Him" from JC Superstar, as a
saxophone solo during Communion?

Was Bill Clinton the soloist?

And finally, some choice words on the matter as well as another area of concern from another Real Live Music Minister:

...the grossest examples occurred in the Catholic Chapel at a military base. I was director of music there, and the chaplain and his pet seminarian both volunteered some doozies.

The seminarian gave a homily on the Richard Marx song "Everything I Do" from that awful Kevin Costner remake of Robin Hood (which ranks somewhere below
"...Men in Tights" as far as I'm concerned). He sang the song, accompanying himself on the guitar, then gave his sappy homily. He justified it by talking
about the Song of Solomon.

The pastor, however, was far worse. At all the Christmas Masses in 1991, he played (over the loudspeakers, partly because I wouldn't sing it) Better Midler's sick-making "From a Distance," whose message could best be summarized as, "God doesn't give a rat's butt about you, but he's watching anyway." He had
apparently lost his faith while he was in the desert for the Gulf War, but Saint Bette had pulled him through. Unfortunately, he had converted to the
secular faith before coming home.

...[Our pastor is] .... the clown type --he even made a joke about one of our parishioners who was having some medical tests done (she is dying of multiple cancers), saying she had to "improve her test scores" before she could come back to church. Her grieving husband was gobsmacked; he hung his head and wept for the rest of Mass (thank God, not very long).

Okay, okay. One wedding:

I know you're excluding weddings, but I still remember my surprise
twenty years ago at hearing the theme from the Godfather being played at a very Catholic Italian-American wedding (Rev. Luca Brazzi officiating).

Really finally, here's mine:

Many years ago, the pastor at the parish in which I was a DRE invited a friend of his from his former parish to come give the Stewardship talk during Mass. The man approached the ambo and set his notes and a very small tape player on top. He announced that he would begin by playing a song for us that for him, summed up the whole ethos of stewardship and sacrificial giving. He directed the microphone down, struggled with the player, and finally it clicked and whirred into action. The music swelled forth and fell upon our wondering ears:

Love is a Many-Splendored Thing.

As my mother would have said: You think I'm making this up. I'm not.

Tomorrow: links. There have been many new Catholic blogs birthed over the past couple of weeks, and tomorrow, they'll all get a spot over there on the right.
On transfering feasts to Sunday: A reader writes:

Even if mid-week attendance would be lower, I think our bishops should not push holy days of obiligations off to a Sunday, since part of the Church's role (in my opinion) is to shake us from our everyday attachment to things in the world.

I agree. Although the Church calendar certainly was not given to us by Christ, and evolved as a result of traditions, choices and decisions, the basis of this particular decision doesn't thrill me. I put it in the same category as padded pews and dispensing with Lenten Abstention if St. Patrick's Day falls on a Friday. I don't need to be accomodated. God knows, I don't. I need to be challenged.

Well, that didn't take long.

Rod Dreher has the response to our lawyer (below) reader:

What your lawyer correspondent may not know is that documents in the Geoghan case show that the archdiocese relied on favorable medical evaluations of Geoghan conducted by doctors who were not qualified. As the Boston Globe reported on January 16:


The other doctor, who saw Geoghan as a patient in 1980 and wrote evaluations of Geoghan in 1984 and 1989, is a psychiatrist, but Dr. John H. Brennan had no background in treating sexual offenders, according to records kept by the state.>>

And this, from the same article:


''Nobody with training or experience working with sex offenders would give that kind of blanket assurance, even in the 1980s,'' Finkelhor said. ''It was well-known by then that sex offenders were highly likely to repeat the behavior.''>>

My guess is that Mullins and Brennan were good ol' boys the Archdiocese knew it could rely on to tell it what it wanted to hear.

As to the lawyer's other point, that defense attorneys have a professional obligation to do whatever it takes to defend their client, the obvious comeback to that is that the Church is paying these lawyers' bills, and the bishop could bloody well tell his attorneys not to cross certain lines with these victims. The lawyers don't control the bishops, the bishops control the lawyers. The bishops know exactly what they want from their lawyers, even if they're not man enough to own up to it.


Two notes from a lawyer. The same one. One is in reference to Cardinal Law's liability in this case, and the second is in response to my snarkiness about the tactics of diocesan lawyers:

Although I'm not privy to all the facts, from what I do know about the case, I have a feeling that neither Cardinal Law or his diocese will be found civilly liable to the sex abuse victims. Here's why:

Negligence is a common law tort by which four basic elements must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence. These elements are Duty, Breach of duty,
Causation, and Damages. Without getting into all the legal subtleties, the plaintiffs in this case will probably be able to prove up duty, causation and damages. The real hurdle here, at least in my opinion, is breach of duty. Did Cardinal Law breach a legal duty that he owed to the victims? So far as I have seen, I believe Cardinal Law may very well be able to skirt this issue on the sole basis of the reliance he allegedly placed upon the advice given to him by the medical doctors who had evaluated Geoghan.
In other words, if the reports about Geoghan were based upon a prevailing consensus or standard within the medical community at the time, then it cannot be
said that Law acted unreasonably or breached a legal duty that he owed to the victims.

If in fact Law is not held liable, don't blame the legal system or unconscionable slick lawyers (of which there are many). I would lay the blame on the medical
profession (specifically the American Psychological Association) which since the early 1970s has been co-opted by amoral activists with political agendas.

And then:

What are the lawyers supposed to do Amy, roll over and die on their clients just because it is the Church? That in itself would be irresponsible and probably
grounds for disbarment, but of course the Washington (Com)Post isn't going to report that. Believe it or not, lawyers do have to comply with a legally enforceable set of ethical satndards, and if the diocean attorneys are doing anything remotely over the line, they will pay for it monetarily and professionally.

Part of my response is that this is the awful place in which we land when we've not been absolutely faithful to Christ since the beginning. Sort of like a war or a messy relationship. If we'd obeyed Christ since the beginning - the voice of God in our conscience, the teachings of Christ etc....we wouldn't be in the mess in the first place, and now we're stuck in a situation in which there is nothing that can be done to get out that's not going to hurt someone in some direction - it's the price of sin. What's happening is that these dioceses have put themselves in a situation in which the mission of the Church is suffering because of their negligence. It's hurt by the financial costs of settlements, it's hurt by the legal tactics of defense, it's hurt by the scandal of the situation, and it's hurt by the cold hard fact that people in the Church, identified with the Church, leading the Church, have brought harm to innocents rather than the love of Jesus.

The nominations are coming in fast and furious. I'll wait until later in the day and post them all at once in one big, depressing, hysterical and jaw-dropping post.
Amazing. Practically a whole, entire afternoon of work. I've discovered the secret: Once Joseph goes to sleep, don't try to go up the squeaky stairs, across the squeaky floor, put him in his cold bed, and then go back across the squeaky floor and be stopped on the squeaky stairs by his outraged cries.

No. After he falls asleep, roll him onto the couch, wrapped in his blanket, and then go to the other couch and sit quietly doing your research and tapping on the laptop when necessary. He's slept for almost two hours, and I haven't got this much work done in a week. I feel SO much better.

An interesting thought from a reader on the question of transferring feasts to the nearest Sunday:

It is both heartbreaking and enraging to see the effort and money that goes into pushing the bishop's annual appeal campaign (professional videotapes, glossy brochures, nested reply cards and envelopes on pricey stationary) or into efforts to get the laity involved in parish groups and ministries, and to know that no effort was spent to convince the laity that the events for which Holy Days of Obligation are designated are crucial to our faith and worthy of a little extra effort. No, it's easier to transfer the obligation to a Sunday so that 'more people will be able to celebrate it.' The people who truly could not meet the obligation for various reasons were not at fault and no doubt honored the day in spirit, and those I know who chose not to meet the obligation were generally ignorant of the reason for the obligation and importance of the celebration and the transfer has done nothing increase their awareness.

What was the real point of tranferring the celebration other than to provide one more opportunity for bishops to discharge their teaching obligation on a matter that, because it would entail an inconvenience, the laity might resent?

Sometimes my husband and I hear a song on the radio, usually from the 1960's or 1970's, and one of us will say, after a pause in which a painful memory is dredged up, "I remember singing that at Mass. Do you?" Recently, it was the Three Dog Night song, Black and know..The ink is black..the page is white..

So here's the question:

What lame, inappropriate pieces of secular music have you endured at Mass? You've Got a Friend? Happy Birthday? The Rose?

Tell me. I want to know.

Good point: Weddings excluded. I'd be overwhelmed if we counted them, wouldn't I?

Oh, you guys.

Every time I try to shut this thing down and get some real work done, I make the mistake of checking my mail just one more time and finding another gem. Here's the word by reader Tom, who called his email "I don't need no stinking Ascension"

I cannot remember whether my archdiocese (Washington) observes Ascension Thursday on Sunday. I was out of the state last weekend, so I didn't get a parish bulletin, which is how I know whether this or that feast is observed, or transfered, or just ignored until it goes away.

I don't care, one way or another, what they do, as long as they let me know.

Anyway, I checked the archdiocesan website, and it said the Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter is the Feast of the Ascension. I checked a calendar I got from the neighborhood basilica, and it said the Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter is the Feast of the Ascension. I checked the date on my parish's envelope for Ascension, and it said the Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter is the Feast of the Ascension.

Of course, the Feast of the Ascension is observed on Sunday in Washington.

Then I went to Philadelphia for the weekend, where they do Ascension Thursday on Thursday, so I just didn't get an Ascension this year.

It would be nice, in a way, if liturgical changes could only be made official by having them hand-written on vellum, in Latin, and delivered by sandalled friars travelling on foot. Then there would only be a handful of changes in any one lifetime, and I could probably keep up with them.

Now here's the most interesting blog of the week for you:

Fr. Robert Carr, parochial vicar of Holy Cross Cathedral in Boston, has started a weblog. It's aptly called From The Middle of the Storm. Go visit for a unique perspective that none the rest of us observers-from-a-distance could possibly understand.

Where is the outrage at the desecration of the Church of the Nativity?

Christian pusillanimity reached absurd lows last Saturday night when Italian mayors, gathered in Rome, took to the Colosseum to sing John Lennon's Imagine. Italy, which is very proud of itself for being selected as the likely site of the next international peace conference on the Middle East, wanted to show its commitment to peace. The Christian martyrs of the Colosseum would have wept to see it.

The enemies of Christianity are justified in their laughter. The birthplace of Jesus Christ is overrun by terrorists, and in response, dozens of at least nominally Catholic politicians sing pop music's most nihilistic anthem --imagine there's no Heaven ... no countries ... no religion. Imagine no Christian resistance. It isn't hard to do.

...The enormity of what happened needs to be underscored. Speaking of the "long and anguished history of the Church" in the Holy Land, the Franciscan priest responsible for the shrines, Father Giovanni Battistelli, called the "occupation-siege of the Shrine of the Nativity a chapter utterly without precedent." Never before in the centuries of wars and sackings that have drenched the Holy Land in blood has the basilica of the Nativity been occupied. And for good reason -- potential occupiers knew that a ferocious response would certainly have followed. Today, the only penalty seems to be having to listen to John Lennon's puerile philosophy set to music.

From a priest reader:

I must confess to mentioning Mother’s Day at our celebration of the Feast of the Ascension. I preached a full homily on the feast, and had a few separate remarks at the end of homily time. I too am bothered by the movement of the feast to Sunday (each of those Easter Sundays have a distinct character and the later ones prepare the congregation for the feast of Pentecost), but when they end up together, it’s really a problem. Secular holiday or not, Mother’s Day is also an opportunity to get in our Catholic licks about Motherhood, Mary, and family, all suffering realities in our time, but together with the Ascension is no good. I just tried to make the best of the situation. “Back to Thursday” would be my wish even though the churches are half-empty.

Oh, now....

A reader snarks:

Given my experience with parental conduct in our parish cry room (which we no longer use), I've considered asking that it's name be changed to the chat room.

I don't like much about the new Blue's Clues. I don't like the opening song. I don't like thenew triumphant "we figured out Blue's Clues" song. I don't like the new direction the show seems to be taking - much more overtly "educational" - for pete's sake, this week the show is all about READING CHARTS. What fresh hell? Reading charts? Some consortsium of rabid professional preschool educators must have held the show up at gunpoint. And Joe? He's okay. As my husband pointed out, he seems more like he's acting than Steve did. Steve was much more natural.

But we've got to suck it in and live in the now. Why? Because here's what Steve is up to now.

From a reader, in a note she titled, I mean Cry Rooms

I have four -- they are the proverbial two years spaced from 11 to 17.Yeah, it was tough keeping them quiet and still. All are categorized as "gifted" -- psych code for they will wear Mama out -- two are also ADHD, whatever that means these days. In short, these kids don't readily go into slow gear. A few Spirit-inspired rules helped:

Dad's military -- when he's home, we don't go separately to Mass if we can avoid it. We meet the Lord as we live -- as family, warts and all, barring illness.

No food, no books.

Mama and Daddy don't sit there and balance the checkbook, leaf through the music issue, read the bulletin, etc. Kids learn by our doing, or undoing! Feet don't touch the floor 'til the final blessing -- even if you had to leave, you left -- and stayed in the loving arms of one of us. We wore more than a few paths in the foyer carpet walking a restless one. I avoided the cry room like the plague -- and the touchy-feely let the kids be kids attitude it exuded.

They've had their moments and its been work -- and not necessarily the experience I went looking for. But. .

The payoff? Four young people who are in varying stages of owning the faith of their parents. Members of the community comment on their behavior --more importantly, interact with them and treat them as part of the community, duh! The older ones will get up to be at church at 7:30 am to get ready to serve or prepare for choir, even after a late Saturday night. Sometimes I don't know what they've volunteered for until the phone call comes from the person in charge. They still have their moments -- but
for the most part, they've caught it. They've commented on the cry room -- they see it as alienation rather than accommodation. Mama's just asked that they
save the eyerolling for when we get home!

From my college friend Meggan, who's now a children's librarian down in Lexington:

I just felt compelled to write to you after my experience at mass this Sunday. I normally am pretty tolerant of most masses at our parish. And our pastor's homilies are usually very good. But, even he dropped the ball this Sunday. While he did mention the Ascension (which our diocese
transferred to the 7th Sunday of Easter) he also talked quite a bit about Mother's Day. I am just wondering if other parishes around the country that were supposed to be celebrating the Ascension instead had Mother's Day homilies?

It bothers me that Acension was transferred to Sunday in the first place - only because the transfer to Sunday is done to give in to lazy Catholics who don't attend Holy Days of Obligation during the week. So, we transfer it to Sunday because it is so important that
we want everyone to attend to the feast of the Ascension, but then... we ignore it in favor of a
secular greeting card holiday!!!!
I am not against mothers or mother's day. But, really!

Anyway, I'd be interested to know if any of your other readers heard a mother's day homily rather than an Ascension homily this past Sunday.

Excellent point from Meggan, there. See, the University of Tennessee does turn out some fine thinkers, eh? Any answers to her query?

In an article about the new bishop of the Byzantine Catholic Archdiocese of Pittsburgh (which extends, incidentally, from Pittsburgh to Texas), a few words about the married priesthood:

Eastern Catholic married men have always become priests in Europe and the Middle East. But in 1929, Rome banned the practice in America after Latin-rite bishops complained that Slavic priests with wives and children were scandalizing the Irish faithful. The ban led many Eastern Catholics to convert to Orthodoxy.

[old bishop]did not receive a full restoration, but in 1999 won permission to submit married candidates to Rome for approval on a case-by-case basis. So far there is no married candidate.

[new bishop] is believed to share Procyk's priorities, including a married priesthood.


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