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Friday, March 04, 2005

Catholic Exchange is running the third and last part in my series on beauty, the liturgy and priestly formation. Click here to read the whole piece. Here's a snip...

A commitment to beauty [in the Church] is meaningless without a requisite commitment to the things that beauty demands. If we are ever going to have beautiful things in the Church again, we have to change a number of things in the way we operate. The Church will not be the patron of the arts again without a bit of elitism and sacrifice.

Beauty is rare and exclusive. And the next conclusion is unavoidable: The people who can produce beautiful art are also rare. Artistic talent has nothing to do with the qualities of a person’s heart, or the level of his devotion. For most pastors the most difficult aspect of leading the movement to restore beauty in the Church won’t be writing checks, but it will be in confronting those very nice people who should never be allowed anywhere within one hundred miles of an open microphone.

I once lived in a parish that for years was tortured weekly by two of the nicest Catholic folks you might ever meet. “Tone deaf Charlie” and “Tempo-free Doris” had been cheerfully strumming their guitars, banging their tambourines and trilling dreadfully at the Sunday morning liturgy for as long as anyone could remember. In my nightmares, I still hear Doris chiding all of us wide-eyed sufferers, “Come on now, you all know this song: ‘Awaaaaaaaaaake from your slumber! Ariiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiise from your sleeeeeeeeeeep!’” They were quite awful. Finally, a group of us parishioners recruited a sponsor and a few music grad students from the local university to stop the insanity, and bring some beauty to our Sunday Mass. But when we brought the fully-funded proposal to our pastor, he killed it. “I would never want to offend Charlie and Doris. Maybe their voices aren’t that good, but their hearts are pleasing to God.” This was nothing but cowardice wearing a mask of charity. It isn’t charity to spare the feelings of two people, while flaying the sensibilities and pastoral needs of hundreds of others.

And I'm already getting mail about the piece...

Bravo, once again. How perfectly said. I wish I could email your article to the entire Archdiocese of ____________.

I am presently temporarily helping out at the Basilica in directing the choir and leading the liturgy from the organ. I dearly miss my calling to compose and celebrate the old and especially the new music of the church. The last few places I went to be employed as a music director wasn't interested to keep me - stained glass blue grass was what they had in mind.... Indeed, for most of my life I have been fighting this uphill battle. I just turned 50 and am hoping Springtime for the beauty of art and music in the church is about to be sprung.

Please continue to pray for me and those of us who do believe that quality in music and art is worth every penny.

Sincerely Yours in JMJ,

Composer of Sacred Music