Who Prepares Music For Worship? SttL 119-121

Ten years ago, the US Bishops released a much-anticipated document on church music, Sing to the Lord (SttL). One of the topics they addressed was the preparation of music for liturgy. Who does this? It’s a question addressed in numbered sections 119 through 121.

The bishops lean on the GIRM to note that the music preparation is “ultimately” the clergy’s responsibility. GIRM 352 is quoted: “(I)n planning the celebration of Mass, [the priest] should have in mind the common spiritual good of the people of God, rather than his own inclinations.”

This certainly applies to music leaders as well. Odds are we have even stronger opinions about the thumbs-up or thumbs-down judgment on particulars, but that too must be leavened with that “common spiritual good.”

The GIRM (#111) is cited again:

In order that there “be harmony and diligence in the effective preparation of each liturgical celebration in accord with the Missal and other liturgical books,” the pastor may designate that the director of music or a Liturgy or music committee meet regularly to make the preparations necessary for a good use of the available liturgical and musical options.

And what about that committee? In their own words, the bishops suggest a membership made up of “persons with the knowledge and artistic skills needed in celebration.” These include:

  • men and women
  • trained in Catholic theology,
  • (trained in) Liturgy,
  • (trained in) liturgical music
  • some members of the worshiping assembly so that their perspective is represented.

“(Familiarity) with current resources in these areas” is also touted.

In my experience, I find training to be a challenge. What do the bishops mean by theology? A college course? A familiarity with the Catechism or the documents of Vatican II? Being a former seminarian or religious? Trained in liturgical ministry as it is constituted in a particular parish?

Many parishioners are capable of substantial contributions to a liturgy committee, but lack the self-confidence in religion, theology, or spirituality. The one thing I’d suggest as an addition here is a familiarity, if not training, with some aspects of Catholic spirituality. Lacking that element of prayer, liturgy preparation is bound to come up short against its potential.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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One Response to Who Prepares Music For Worship? SttL 119-121

  1. Liam says:

    Committees, however, are not universal widgets. While they might operate democratically, as it were, if permitted by the pastor and music director, the collegial ideal doesn’t necessarily presuppose that.

    Less obviously, however, there is the problem of the dog that doesn’t bark: over time, people who do not feel their training and input would be valued or respect simply won’t volunteer as much unless they are very hardy gadflies. This is particularly true for the members who are supposed to be representing congregational perspectives: we need to be aware of that potential skew, and it takes far more work to overcome that dynamic than many people realize. It’s one reason I wish communal Catholic discernment would also take a dimension of deliberate randomness more under wing. As the Apostles did in the choice of Matthias.

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