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St. Pius X – Not a Fan of Folk Music

August 27th, 2010, Promulgated by Gen

But, alas, we care all too much about how we feel rather than how the Church universal feels. Of course, by “we” I mean the Rabjohn, DeRycke & Co. management of St. Pius X Church in the Diocese of Rochester. Before I present some pieces of evidence before your eyes, let’s look at Pope Pius X’s motu proprio on sacred music, Tra le Sollecitudini. He states:

I General principles
1. Sacred music, being a complementary part of the solemn liturgy, participates in the general scope of the liturgy, which is the glory of God and the sanctification and edification of the faithful (Folk and rock music are not sanctifying. Period.). It contributes to the decorum and the splendor of the ecclesiastical ceremonies (Decorum and splendor – two things Bishop Clark put in his Cuisinart to make his Progressive Puree), and since its principal office is to clothe with suitable melody the liturgical text proposed for the understanding of the faithful, its proper aim is to add greater efficacy to the text, in order that through it the faithful may be the more easily moved to devotion and better disposed for the reception of the fruits of grace belonging to the celebration of the most holy mysteries.

2. Sacred music should consequently possess, in the highest degree, the qualities proper to the liturgy, and in particular sanctity and goodness of form, which will spontaneously produce the final quality of universality (read “uniformity”).

It must be holy, and must, therefore, exclude all profanity not only in itself, but in the manner in which it is presented by those who execute it. (Rock music is not, in and of itself, “holy.” It may be pleasing, but it is secular, aka “profane,” something “outside of the sanctuary.” It’s in the definition, folks. You show me a piece of rock music or a folk melody which lifts the soul more than the Pange Lingua, and I’ll concede the point.)

It must be true art, for otherwise it will be impossible for it to exercise on the minds of those who listen to it that efficacy which the Church aims at obtaining in admitting into her liturgy the art of musical sounds.

But it must, at the same time, be universal in the sense that while every nation is permitted to admit into its ecclesiastical compositions those special forms which may be said to constitute its native music, still these forms must be subordinated in such a manner to the general characteristics of sacred music that nobody of any nation may receive an impression other than good on hearing them.

II. The different kinds of sacred music
3. These qualities are to be found, in the highest degree, in Gregorian Chant, which is, consequently the Chant proper to the Roman Church, the only chant she has inherited from the ancient fathers, which she has jealously guarded for centuries in her liturgical codices, which she directly proposes to the faithful as her own, which she prescribes exclusively for some parts of the liturgy, and which the most recent studies have so happily restored to their integrity and purity. (Oh, so not folk music twanging forth from pathetically-tuned guitars and banjos? Gee . . . who could have geussed?)

On these grounds Gregorian Chant has always been regarded as the supreme model for sacred music, so that it is fully legitimate to lay down the following rule: the more closely a composition for church approaches in its movement, inspiration and savor the Gregorian form, the more sacred and liturgical it becomes; and the more out of harmony it is with that supreme model, the less worthy it is of the temple. (Folks, when a Pope says, “this is the rule,” you better pay attention.)

The ancient traditional Gregorian Chant must, therefore, in a large measure be restored to the functions of public worship, and the fact must be accepted by all that an ecclesiastical function loses none of its solemnity when accompanied by this music alone.

Special efforts are to be made to restore the use of the Gregorian Chant by the people, so that the faithful may again take a more active part in the ecclesiastical offices, as was the case in ancient times. (The words “active participation of the laity” come surging to the forefront of my mind.)

4. The above-mentioned qualities are also possessed in an excellent degree by Classic Polyphony, especially of the Roman School, which reached its greatest perfection in the sixteenth century, owing to the works of Pierluigi da Palestrina, and continued subsequently to produce compositions of excellent quality from a liturgical and musical standpoint. Classic Polyphony agrees admirably with Gregorian Chant, the supreme model of all sacred music, and hence it has been found worthy of a place side by side with Gregorian Chant, in the more solemn functions of the Church, such as those of the Pontifical Chapel. This, too, must therefore be restored largely in ecclesiastical functions, especially in the more important basilicas, in cathedrals, and in the churches and chapels of seminaries and other ecclesiastical institutions in which the necessary means are usually not lacking.

5. The Church has always recognized and favored the progress of the arts, admitting to the service of religion everything good and beautiful discovered by genius in the course of ages — always, however, with due regard to the liturgical laws (The laws aren’t there to be broken. The rules weren’t superseded by Vatican II. They were supposed to be bolstered, but look how people twisted the words of Sacrosanctum Concillium.). Consequently modern music is also admitted to the Church, since it, too, furnishes compositions of such excellence, sobriety and gravity, that they are in no way unworthy of the liturgical functions.

Still, since modern music has risen mainly to serve profane uses, greater care must be taken with regard to it, in order that the musical compositions of modern style which are admitted in the Church may contain nothing profane, be free from reminiscences of motifs adopted in the theaters, and be not fashioned even in their external forms after the manner of profane pieces.

6. Among the different kinds of modern music, that which appears less suitable for accompanying the functions of public worship is the theatrical style, which was in the greatest vogue, especially in Italy, during the last century. This of its very nature is diametrically opposed to Gregorian Chant and classic polyphony, and therefore to the most important law of all good sacred music. Besides the intrinsic structure, the rhythm and what is known as the conventionalism of this style adapt themselves but badly to the requirements of true liturgical music.

I am sure that some people reading this are of the “but folk/rock/jazz/hip hop music in the liturgy is okey-dokey.” Show me one document that says that explicitly. The Church explicitly promotes Gregorian Chant and Sacred Polyphony, but nowhere does it explicitly approve and endorse the use of music thoroughly rooted in secular life. Nowhere. Show me the document.

But, now we must turn our gaze from the uniform orthodoxy of Pope Pius X (and Pope Benedict XVI) and gaze on the hideously disfigured face of the music program at St. Pius X parish. The following is from the upcoming bulletin:

One of the funny things about the Catholic Church is that it is aptly named. It is “catholic” – universal. How is universality better demonstrated than each parish doing its own thing? That’s not universality, friends, it’s stupidity. It’s fundamentally Protestant in its mentality. “I want to do this, so I’ll do it. If you want to do that, fine . . . go ahead and do it.” That’s pathetic. Since when was the Liturgy something we could tinker freely with? It is so far beyond us that to even think that we have “mastered” it is a demonstration of the sin of pride, tempered of course, by profound ignorance. You cannot change the Liturgy any more than you can change the course of a hurricane. It’s ever-ancient, ever-new, not ever-changing, ever-you. The Church declares Gregorian Chant to have principal place in the liturgy. I say this way too much, but it’s true. How come our administrators, even those who aren’t overtly heretical, choose to overlook such a simple thing? I’m not suggesting that every parish could realistically switch to a Gregorian Mass overnight. That’s not realistic. However, you can take steps.

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2 Responses to “St. Pius X – Not a Fan of Folk Music”

  1. avatar Anonymous says:

    I’m not sure I would equate “universality” with “uniformity” but that’s being picky. I’m willing to risk a lot more uniformity at the present time! My opinion: the Kyrie, Gloria, (perhaps Credo), and Agnus Dei should all be in Latin, and -in sung Masses- Gregorian chant. The cantor/choir could certainly enrich the Liturgy with additional Gregorian chants and, in the case of choirs, polyphonic music. More contemporary or classical hymns certainly have a place, too: processionals, recessionals, after communion hymns, “offertory” hymns (although I don’t believe in hymn singing during the preparation of the gifts). If the Kyrie, Gloria, or Agnus Dei is rendered in English or contemporary song then a processinal or such should be a chant in Latin if not by the congregation then by the cantor or choir. Get rid of the guitars and pianos. Other instruments could be used with the organ but the organ is essential.

    We have a solid tradition to point to when it comes to music.

    In the visual arts the tradition is much more diverse, chaotic even. And, unlike sacred music (Gregorian Chant)we don’t have any papal or council statements designating a particular style essential. Also unlike music for the Liturgy, the visual arts have been generally excluded from an important role in church environments beginning before Vatican II, and most definitely after.

  2. avatar Bernie says:

    Anonymous at 12:45 PM is me, Bernie


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