The last of thirty-two first round polls comes your way today:
The title question is apt as you consider your choice today. How wide a path foes the folk genre cut into music as a whole, including sacred music?
The much-reviled “Kumbaya” has been transformed from a simple spiritual composed/revived not quite a hundred years ago, into an anthem of 60′s acoustic music (Thanks to Pete Seeger and Joan Baez), and now into a code-word for ridicule. Congrats on that latter part, you cynics. One of the last “popular songs” that is an explicit and direct prayer to God (Come by here, my Lord) is now sneered at universally. My take is that it shows the critics as either godless or bullies. Michael Ross offers up some apt commentary:
Decades ago, the song “Kumbaya” (alternatively spelled “Kum Ba Yah”) first became part of the national songbook as a call to peace. Since then, the message and meaning has been twisted into something altogether different. Derision of the song and its emotional foundation has become a required sign of toughness and pragmatism in American politics today, and this is especially true since the Sept. 11 attacks. That’s a little sad, or a lot, depending on your point of view.
It’s a rather delicious irony that if you want to show your 9/11 toughness, you have to poll in favor of another folk song from across the Atlantic. “The Summons“ has gained a huge following in the twenty or so years since John Bell wrote his text for a traditional Scottish folk tune, Kelvingrove. I’ve always thought of John Bell as a fusion of Tom Conry and Jacques Berthier. A social justice sensibility and lyrical edginess combined with very basic roots music easily singable by virtually anyone. Who’s not to like or be big-time bothered by this thought in the second verse?
Will you leave yourself behind
If I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind
And never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare
Should your life attract or scare?
Let’s face it: some songs do scare people. Does that make them necessarily bad or good to sing? Bad or good for church music? Maybe the polling would be better phrased as which of these two songs scares you less? Have fun.
I debated splitting this section into two posts. But the progressive argument seemed to be important to present without a break, so bear with it. Lateran IV and the Angelic Doctor are about as authoritative sources as one can find in the Middle Ages:
The principal interpreters of the Lateran Council and contemporaries of that period had the same teaching concerning this Decree. The history of the Church reveals that a number of synods and episcopal decrees beginning with the twelfth century, shortly after the Lateran Council, admitted children of seven years of age to First Communion. There is moreover the word of St. Thomas Aquinas, who is an authority of the highest order, which reads: “When children begin to have some use of reason, so that they can conceive a devotion toward this Sacrament (the Eucharist), then this Sacrament can be given to them.” Ledesma thus explains these words: “I say, in accord with common opinion, that the Eucharist is to be given to all who have the use of reason, and just as soon as they attain the use of reason, even though at the time the child may have only a confused notion of what he is doing.” Vasquez comments on the same words of St. Thomas as follows: “When a child has once arrived at the use of reason he is immediately bound by the divine law from which not even the Church can dispense him.”
The same is the teachings of St. Antoninus, who wrote: “But when a child is capable of doing wrong, that is of committing a mortal sin, then he is bound by the precept of Confession and consequently of Communion.” The Council of Trent also forces us to the same conclusion when it declares: “Children who have not attained the use of reason are not by any necessity bound to Sacramental Communion of the Eucharist.” It assigns as the only reason the fact that they cannot commit sin: “they cannot at that age lose the grace of the sons of God already acquired.”
Quam Singulari speaks of what Trent called “necessity.” But even in this generous offering of the Eucharist to young children, we are still looking at the Eucharist as a remedy for sin, and not necessarily an opportunity for grace. Human institutions offer human beings a set of minimum requirements. It gives those who look back (Luke 9:62, perhaps?) a standard of “membership.” I don’t know how helpful this is to a vibrant and grace-filled Christianity.
Let’s move ahead to the 1720′s:
From this it is the mind of the Council that children are held to Communion by necessity and by precept when they are capable of losing grace by sin. The words of the Roman Synod, held under Benedict XIII, are in agreement with this in teaching that the obligation to receive the Eucharist begins, “after boys and girls attain the age of discretion, that is, at the age in which they can distinguish this Sacramental food, which is none other than the true Body of Jesus Christ, from common and ordinary bread; and that they know how to receive it with proper religious spirit.”
Who are the best judges of a child who is ready for the sacramental life? Parents and priest:
The Roman Catechism adds this: “At what age children are to receive the Holy Mysteries no one can better judge than their father and the priest who is their confessor. For it is their duty to ascertain by questioning the children whether they have any understanding of this admirable Sacrament and if they have any desire for it.”
This brings us to the “present day” of Quam Singulari, the early twentieth century, and a conclusion that will lead into the prescriptions of this document:
From all this it is clear that the age of discretion for receiving Holy Communion is that at which the child knows the difference between the Eucharistic Bread and ordinary, material bread, and can therefore approach the altar with proper devotion. Perfect knowledge of the things of faith, therefore, is not required, for an elementary knowledge suffices-some knowledge (aliqua cognitio); similarly full use of reason is not required, for a certain beginning of the use of reason, that is, some use of reason (aliqualis usus rationis) suffices.
Recent judgments of the pope and the predecessor of the CDWDS are cited:
To postpone Communion, therefore, until later and to insist on a more mature age for its reception must be absolutely discouraged, and indeed such practice was condemned more than once by the Holy See. Thus Pope Pius IX, of happy memory, in a Letter of Cardinal Antonelli to the Bishops of France, March 12, 1866, severely condemned the growing custom existing in some dioceses of postponing the First Communion of children until more mature years, and at the same time sharply disapproved of the age limit which had been assigned. Again, the Sacred Congregation of the Council, on March 15, 1851, corrected a prescription of the Provincial Council of Rouen, which prohibited children under twelve years of age from receiving First Communion. Similarly, this Sacred Congregation of the Discipline of the Sacraments, on March 25, 1910, in a question proposed to it from Strasburg whether children of twelve or fourteen years could be admitted to Holy Communion, answered: “Boys and girls are to be admitted to the Holy Table when they arrive at the years of discretion or the use of reason.”
Thoughts on this? Tomorrow we’ll conclude with a look at eight prescriptions set out by this document. We can discuss too if this move to early Communion has accomplished anything more than a temporary inclusion in the life of the Church.
Wrapping up Part Five, Chapter I on various “agents” of catechesis. Some of these you may recognize as staff members in your parish or as lay people who serve in any of these various needs:
232. The figure of the catechist in the Church, has different modes, just as, the needs of catechesis are varied.
– “The catechists in missionary countries”, (Catechesi Tradendae 66b; cf. Guide for Catechists) to whom this title is applied in a special way: “Churches that are flourishing today would not have been built up without them”. (Catechesi Tradendae 66b) There are those who have the “specific responsibility for catechesis”; (Guide for Catechists 4) and there are those who collaborate in various forms of apostolate. (Guide for Catechists 4)
– In some Churches of ancient Christian tradition but where there is a shortage of clergy, there is need for catechists in some way analogous to those of missionary countries. This requires confronting urgent needs: the community animation of small rural populations deprived of the constant presence of a priest, the helpfulness of a missionary presence “in areas of large cities”. (Catechesi Tradendae 45; cf. Redemptoris Missio 37, ab, par. 2)
– In countries of Christian tradition which require a “new evangelization” (Redemptoris Missio 33) the catechist for young people and the catechist for adults become indispensable, in promoting the process of initiatory catechesis. The catechists must provide for continuing catechesis. In such tasks the role of the priest is equally fundamental.
– The catechist for children and adolescents continues to be indispensable. This catechist has the delicate mission of giving “the first notions of catechism and preparation for the sacrament of Penance, for First Communion and Confirmation”. (Catechesi Tradendae 66a) This responsibility is all the more pressing today if children and adolescents “do not receive adequate religious formation within the family”. (Catechesi Tradendae 66a; cf. Catechesi Tradendae 42)
– A catechist who must also be formed is the catechist for pre-sacramental encounter, (Cf. General Catechetical Directory 96) for adults on occasions such as the Baptism or the First Holy Communion of their children or the celebration of the sacrament of Matrimony. It is a specific and original task comprising the welcome of the faithful, of primary proclamation to them and of accompanying them on the journey of faith.
– Other catechists urgently needed in delicate human situations include catechists for the old (Cf. Catechesi Tradendae 45; cf. General Catechetical Directory 95) who need a presentation of the Gospel adapted to their condition; for handicapped or disabled people who require a special pedagogy, (Cf. General Catechetical Directory 91; cf. Catechesi Tradendae 41) in addition to their total integration into the community; for migrants and those marginalized by the evolution of modern society. (Catechesi Tradendae 45a)
– Other types of catechists may also be advisable. Every local Church, by analysing her own cultural and religious situation, will discover her own needs and will realistically foster those kinds of catechists which she needs. The organization and orientation of the formation of catechists is a fundamental responsibility.
- It’s not so easy, especially in mission apostolates, to separate catechetical activities from other forms of service. The same might be said of many individuals serving First World parishes.
- On paper, the priority for adult catechists is self-evident.
- Other roles you notice: school teachers, RCIA sponsors, and also those who assist engaged couples and parents of baptized infants.
Anything you see in your parishes not listed here? Anything you think should be provided?
about Todd Flowerday
A Roman Catholic lay person, married (since 1996), with one adopted child (since 2001). I serve in worship and spiritual life in a midwestern university parish.
Neil has been a blogging collaborator for the past several years on Catholic Sensibility. He brings his unique experiences from theology, spirituality, and the ecumenical sphere. Pay special attention to each one of his posts.