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Friday, 11 September 2009

I dunno... do you think your liturgy should be informed by your faith?

A Catholic musician voices a concern at Canticanova:
When the music director position at our church opened a couple of years ago, our pastor hired a non-Catholic to fill the position. As a cantor and choir director, I was open to the idea at first. However, with experience, I now believe hiring non-Catholic music directors to be incongruent with the practice of our faith. The religious beliefs of the music director eventually surface in many different ways, both inside and outside the liturgy.
I am curious, since the writer explicitly says "in many different ways", as to how they surfaced, in addition to, indubitably, the choice of texts to be sung.
A disregard for rubrics?
Ignorance of Catholic culture outside the Mass? (the lacunae in my experience and knowledge until shortly before I began my current position was shameful.)
A lack of knowledge as to, or even an indifference to, the liturgical theology that governs what priority should be given various musical, (or potentially musical) portions of the Mass?

In any case, in theory I have no objection to a non-Catholic musical director in a Catholic parish, given general competence, and a respect for and limitless curiosity about and willingness to comply with the requirements of Catholic liturgy.
Gary Penkala replies:
Situations like you describe can be very different one from another, and making general statements about them is often difficult. Obviously, all things being equal, a parish should hire a practicing, faithful Catholic as music director. One would expect the music director to be qualified in both Catholic music and liturgy, and if the situation warrants, to be competent in organ playing and choral conducting....

However, other circumstances may influence a decision. Perhaps no Catholics applied. Perhaps the Catholics who may have applied were not competent in other areas (organ, directing, etc). In such cases a decision must be made: hire a non-competent Catholic musician or hire a non-Catholic competent musician.

That being said, it should not be taken lightly that a non-Catholic in an authority position in a Catholic parish will be at a distinct disadvantage. Much research, training, patience, humility and flexibility would be required in order to learn and appreciate Catholic liturgy and music. It's definitely not an easy task, especially for someone who has chosen (either directly or through family tradition) to "protest" the Catholic faith.

If, as a pastor, I were faced with the prospect of no music at all, or of hiring a non-Catholic to oversee the program, I'm not sure what I would do.
I cannot argue, and this is a conversation I have heard more than once, but there are two elephants in the room eavesdropping.

One is that there are plenty of Catholic musicians and liturgists who are abysmally uninformed as to what the Catholic Church teaches about, and requires of Her music.

But that one's small, as elephants go. The next is enormous, even by elephant standards.

And that is that people who do not hold what the Church holds and teaches are nonetheless have been permitted to dictate the expression of those teachings, to write the words we pray in our liturgies, with, judging by the inadequate, misleading and sometimes flat-out erroneous theology to be found in the "Hymnals of Record," virtually no oversight.

That is why the Parish Book of Catholic Hymns, an on-going project provoking much discussion over at the CMAA boards, is potentially so valuable a development.

(I am also pleased for that acknowledgment that hymns are going nowhere, and have a valid place in our liturgies.)

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