Music In The Rite of Marriage: SttL 216-218

Nine numbered sections in Sing To The Lord detail the thoughts and directives of the US bishops on liturgical music for weddings. As a pastoral musician I can tell you planning with engaged couples is a significant component of our service to the Church. Some of my colleagues find this a burden. I stand with those who find it a source of joy.

Sections 216 and 217 set the tone for what follows, and this reminder strikes me as significant:

The Church desires that a person’s wedding day be filled with joy and grace. (SttL 217)

Sometimes this is beyond our control. But when it comes to counseling couples, the bishops acknowledge a two-pronged approach: sound judgment and pastoral sensitivity.

The bishops remind us that it is the couple who enacts the sacrament: they vow to one another; it is not something extracted by the Church or clergy. As such, a couple should be engaged in the planning of the liturgy. Is it a problem when groom, bride, or both have no idea about liturgical music? The task falls to the church musician:

Since oftentimes the only music familiar to the couple is not necessarily suitable to the sacrament, the pastoral musician will make an effort to demonstrate a wide range of music appropriate for the Liturgy. (SttL 218)

Sometimes a couple does come with suggestions. These offerings may be less or more appropriate. More often today than thirty years ago, the engaged persons bring few or no ideas to their consultation with me.

If I don’t know the people well, I ask about their expectations for the wedding. Here are my usual questions:

  • Do you envision a high church affair: very dress-up, a certain formality, the importance of dignity?
  • Or do you see yourselves having a more laid-back celebration: something more loose-fitting and comfortable?

The answers give me good direction on music. It also puts a couple at ease if they know nearly nothing about music. It’s not like most people do this more than once in a lifetime, right? The other key observation I share with couples is this:

Music and readings can do one of three things:

  • They can suggest or allude to a quality in the beloved or in the relationship.
  • They can teach or form the listener about love, faithfulness, or the desired quality of the marriage.
  • They can say something about God.

Often, all three are in play for a church wedding. Most wedding homilies include some personal aspect of the couple. If a song reflects this also, and is otherwise appropriate for liturgy, that seems within bounds. Most Scripture readings–and weddings songs based on Scripture–speak of love, sacrifice, good faith, commitment, and other virtues and qualities to which a couple might aspire. And of course, anything about God–God’s love, praise of God, gratitude to God, etc.: this is certainly a good direction to consider.


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Aparecida 186-187: Bishops As Missionary Disciples

Paragraphs 186 through 190 address the matter of “Bishops, missionary disciples of Jesus High Priest.” The Vatican II document on the ministry of bishops is cited:

186. As successors of the apostles, together with the Supreme Pontiff and under his authority,(Cf. Christus Dominus 2) we bishops have accepted with faith and hope the calling to serve the people of God, according to the heart of Christ, Good Shepherd.

As a missionary disciple, a bishop is first and foremost a baptized person. The commonality is the desire to follow Jesus:

Together with all the faithful and by virtue of baptism we are, first of all, disciples and members of the People of God. Like all the baptized and together with them, we want to follow Jesus, Master of life and truth in the communion of the Church. As shepherds, servants of the Gospel, we are conscious of being called to embody love for Jesus Christ and for the Church in the intimacy of prayer, and to give of ourselves to our brothers and sisters, over whom we preside in charity. It is as Saint Augustine says: with you I am Christian, for you I am bishop.

That citation of the Bishop of Hippo is quite apt. The posture of desire for the Lord, to seek the virtue of love, to pray, to sacrifice is both the basic attitude of the baptized person as well as the personal vector for a Christian who is called to lead other Christians.

The emphasis is on the sanctification of the entire faithful, not just a priestly caste:

187. The Lord calls us to promote the charity and holiness of the faithful by all means.

  • We strive so that the people of God will grow through the sacraments presided over by us and by the other ordained ministers.
  • We are called to be teachers of the faith, and hence to announce the Good News, which is source of hope for all, to oversee and promote the Catholic faith with care and courage.
  • By virtue of the close fraternity that comes from the sacrament of holy orders, it is our duty to cultivate in a special way the bonds that unite us to our priests and deacons.
  • We serve Christ and the Church through discernment of the will of the Father to reflect the Lord in his way of thinking, feeling, speaking and behaving in the midst of human beings.

The bullet points are my addition here. They outline sacramental presidency, teachers and evangelizers, a unifying factor for clergy, and a servant who imitates Jesus. To sum up:

In short, we bishops must be close joyful witnesses of Jesus Christ, Good Shepherd (cf. Jn 1:1-18).

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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What’s Around, What’s Up Ahead

Site traffic keeps pace as people come here looking for wedding and funeral readings. I somewhat miss the repartee of the old days. For that, I guess there’s still Facebook.

Pope Francis’ address the other week to the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean: the whisperer thinks highly of it. It might be in the same vein as the Aparecida. Updated a bit for this decade. We might have a look there in a few days when I get some bits of time.

I see a tv celebrity has been biting into politicians, getting called out, and pummeling away in response. Good for that, because it has to do with medical insurance. The only way a politician is going to win this one–aside from having a really good idea (which seems a distant possibility) is to give up politics and get a show in the same time slot on another network. Seems like tv celebrities have been going in the opposite direction–into politics–lately.

Anyway, this is one of the few times I can actually empathize with a celebrity, having a child who faced three major operations as a youngster and worrying for her future in an America where GOP ideas about health insurance seem the rage. I can only hope this latest anti-ACA attempt goes down to humiliating defeat.

I see LifeSiteNews is in full Karl Rove mode these days. Somebody should tell these people there’s a new pope, and that the only people who care about getting people fired are ideological cannibals who would only turn on each other if the Church were suddenly uniformly elder sibling. Because: even twins have an elder and a younger.

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Aparecida 184-185: Missionary Disciples With Specific Vocations

Every baptized person can and could aspire to be a disciple. A lot of ink and keystrokes are expended on the ministry/volunteer thing. Extremists on both sides miss the point. That said, this coming section looks at ministries/roles/duties (however you want to call it) through the lens of discipleship.

184. The condition of disciple springs from Jesus Christ as from its fountain, through faith and Baptism, and grows in the Church, the community where all its members acquire equal dignity and participate in various ministries and charisms. The proper and specific way of living out baptismal holiness in the service of the Kingdom of God is thereby embodied in the Church.

8 significant issues facing us:

185. In faithfully fulfilling their baptismal vocation, disciples must take into account the challenges that today’s world presents to the Church of Jesus, including:

  • the exodus of believers to sects and other religious groups;
  • cultural trends contrary to Christ and the Church;
  • frustration among priests faced with immense pastoral work;
  • the scarcity of priests in many places;
  • changing cultural paradigms;
  • the phenomenon of globalization and secularization;
  • the grave problems of violence, poverty, and injustice;
  • the growing culture of death, which affects life in all its forms.

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Aparecida 181-183: Communion Between The Churches

Paragraph 181 begins a section entitled, “Episcopal conferences and communion between the churches.” First, a reminder that bishops share and interact in responsibility:

181. In addition to the service that they provide in their particular churches, the bishops exercise this office together with the other diocesan churches. They thereby embody and manifest the bond of community that unites them to one another.

The post-conciliar experience of the past fifty years has uncovered some new vectors with bishops working between diocesan borders:

Especially since Vatican II, this experience of episcopal community must be understood as an encounter with the living Christ, present in the brethren united in his name.(Cf. EAm 37) To grow in this brotherhood and in shared pastoral coresponsibility, bishops must cultivate the spirituality of communion in order to augment the bonds of collegiality that unite them to the other bishops in their own conference, but also to the entire college of bishops and to the church of Rome, presided over by the successor of Peter: cum Petro et sub Petro. (Cf. John Paul II, Apostolos Suos) The bishops find in the episcopal conference their space for discerning in solidarity the major problems of society and the Church, and the stimulus for offering pastoral guidelines for encouraging the members of the People of God to assume their vocation of being missionary disciples faithfully and decisively.

Bishops work and serve the Church together not for the good of their own order, but for the Church and its mission. What does this mean? St John Paul II endorsed the cross-fertilization:

182. The People of God is built up as a communion of particular churches, and through them, as an exchange between cultures. In this framework, bishops and local churches express their concern for all the churches, especially for those closest, united in ecclesiastical provinces, regional conferences, and other forms of interdiocesan association within each nation or between countries of the same region or continent. These varied forms of community vigorously stimulate the “relationships of brotherhood between dioceses and parishes,”(Ibid. 33) and foster “greater cooperation between sister churches.” (Ibid. 74)

It’s about a “stimulation” for the cause of the Gospel.

A few specific words about the Latin American/Caribbean bishops:

183. CELAM is an ecclesial organism of fraternal aid among bishops whose primary concern is to work together for the evangelization of the continent. Over the course of its fifty years, it has provided very important services to the bishops conferences and to our particular churches, among which we highlight the general conferences, regional gatherings, and study seminars in its various agencies and institutions. The result of all this effort is a brotherhood felt between the bishops of the continent and a theological reflection and a common pastoral language that fosters communion and exchange between the churches.


For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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On My Bookshelf: The Benedict Option IV

Gaining momentum, Rod Dreher devotes the last three chapters of his book to two favorite topics for everyone: sex and technology. With regard to the former, it’s all the arguments about sex outside of heterosexual marriage from the culturewar. No real news there.

Conservatives (and, admittedly others too) wring their hands a lot over the internet. I doubt Mr Dreher would have as many readers without it. I was surprised he was surprised with the lack of smartphone reception at a monastery.

Online things and devices, like anything else, are a tool. The printing press led to big problems on the faith front in the years 1453-1517 and beyond. Just because something could be easily printed, didn’t mean it was reliable, true, or useful.

Some final thoughts … I admire the option to go Benedictine. Maybe I’m a bit envious of those I know who do. My wife, with her roots in evangelical Christianity, is a lot more suspect of “special communities.” So living apart and intentionally is not likely a working solution for me. I’m not invested enough to be persuasive of my spouse. Plus, I’m not so sure a skeptic like me would fit in one of Rod’s circles. I suspect it would be easier on me than on them. Living in an intentional community was something of a personal aspiration when I was in my twenties. But I’ve lived long enough to see the virtues of being realistic. Living in the world does not preclude good, constructive friendships–influencing and being influenced. I might even suggest that living in the world leaves some Christians more open to others who might need their friendship, guidance, and perspective. Not always, but sometimes. It’s a matter for discernment, not uniformity.

For the large part, Mr Dreher’s book adds to a larger discussion. It addresses questions primarily to lay people: How serious are you about your faith? What do you need to be a better person for Christ and his mission? For my part, I’d ask Rod why his inverviewees and acknowledgement credits are almost all male? He huffs and puffs a lot about sex, but despite going far afield in his conversations, he plays it pretty safe talking to conservative academics, conservative bloggers, conservative Christians, etc.. His book is valuable, well-written, and I’d recommend it if you like the topic, despite its flaws. But as a B-minus work, it just doesn’t go deep enough. For a guy who advocates “preparing for hard labor” in chapter 8, this effort is ideologically lazy. Several idoleogical activists and but one Benedictine monastery. That tells a lot.

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Aparecida 179-180: More on Base Communities

In paragraph 178, we ended with some concern on the part of bishops for base communities that have lost an “authentic feel” for the Church.

I mentioned in my comment on it that quite a number of groups might well be guilty of losing “authenticity” but retain an identification as “Catholic.”

The bishops offer some guidance. Here is an important checklist:

179. In the missionary following of Jesus, ecclesial base communities

  • have the word of God as source of their spirituality
  • and the guidance of their Shepherds to assure ecclesial communion.
  • They deploy their evangelizing and missionary commitment among the humblest and most distant,
  • and they visibly express the preferential option for the poor.
  • They are source and seed of varied services and ministries on behalf of life in society and the Church.

Remaining in communion with their bishop and participating in the overall thrust of diocesan pastoral activity, ecclesial base communities become a sign of vitality in the particular church. By thus acting in conjunction with parish groups, associations, and ecclesial movements, they can help revitalize parishes, making them a community of communities. In their effort to meet the challenges of the contemporary age, ecclesial base communities shall take care not to alter the precious treasure of the Church’s tradition and magisterium.

In addition to the Word, a deeplink to the sacramental life of the Church:

180. As a response to the demands of evangelization, along with ecclesial base communities there are other valid forms of small communities and even networks of communities, of movements, groups of life, prayer, and reflection on the Word of God. All ecclesial communities and groups will yield fruit insofar as the Eucharist is the center of their life and the Word of God is a beacon of their journey and activity in the one Church of Christ.

For a deeper look, remember to check the English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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