Missing the Pull

Taffy-wise, sorry to have ducked out so completely yesterday. Snow day calling and all. After some med tests for my wife, I did have to get in for a meeting, a Mass, and a rehearsal last night.

In the world of left and right, conservative or liberal, thumbs up or down, let me suggest there is a way to triangulate, as it were, on the taffy topic of the day.

An example: In the spectrum of thumbs up or down on any particular song (let’s take “Let There Be Peace on Earth”) it is possible to be more or less in favor of the piece or more or less against it. That’s where almost all people seem to fall. Then there’s what you do with it action-wise. Personally speaking, I dislike the song and fail to program it when I hold the pen. I figure the various parish folks who, when they do get their pen onto the planning page, might do it for me once or twice a year. I can live this this, more or less.

In my opinion, the song is worthy of a death from neglect in liturgical circles. But I have no need to pile on, as it were, in other forums dedicated to lashing or fisking in some torturous debate. Why? And why do I suggest others do the same?

The Parish Hymnal by Construction is an infinitely more rewarding (and demanding) endeavor than the editing process. Fr Jeff sort of missed my point on the anti-fisk meme. An anti-fisk is infinitely more productive catechetically and spiritually for the people one serves. So he likes Advent Marian antiphons and they have beautiful melodies. Big whoop-de; we already knew that, for goodness’ sake. So do his parishioners. What people in the pews who hang on every word or note from Sy Miller, Stuart Hine, or Irving Berlin need to hear is what’s behind the notes, the Latin, and the exterior. The person who likes “Let There Be Peace” sang it in high school during Vietnam, felt a link with others and a connection of peace. (Or some such story.) You have to better that. You may think the song’s trash, and you might be right. But if you don’t come up with convincing alternatives, you’ve just stated your personal taste in a particular song. The argument, “Listen to me; I’m the priest/music director/liturgist/expert” might actually be true theologically and administratively. But in the end, running against the crowd will boil it down to the priest/music director/liturgist/expert going off on his or her own. Nothing more, nothing less. Consider the taffy pull a battle for hearts and minds: not only do you have to be right, you have to demonstrate you’re right. Dictator/terrorist or proving a math theorem? You can guess which approach I advocate.

So am I particularly concerned that “On Eagles Wings” is only a selected portion of Psalm 91? No. Rarely in the Lectionary cycle is the psalm presented in its entirety. Anything longer than Psalm 23’s six verses will get edited. Do I have better reasons for denying Gather C #731 because it fails to mention “God?” Hope so, because even the Hail Mary/Ave Maria only mentions “God” as part of an honorary title; and technically isn’t even a prayer/hymn: it’s a melding of a Scriptural antiphon with a petition. A petition that focuses on “us” in need of prayer, by the way. What narcissism!

Why bother, you ask. It’s so much more meaningful to my emotions when I can rip a song limb from limb and skewer some ignorant sap’s wimpy taste in music to boot. There is a greater sin than a collective self-worship and celebration at Mass: the triumph of individual superiority. While neither is to be lauded, I find the sentiment “You suck!” more of a problem than “We’re great!”


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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