It seems sometimes that our only consolation is that “at least it’s not happening at Mass.” This is particularly true for an upcoming . . . concert . . . at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Let me preface everything I am about to say by expressing my respect and admiration of the capability of the musicians at Sacred Heart Cathedral. They are all quite gifted musicians whose goal is, ultimately, the glory of God. Of course, we could get into the whole mandolins-at-Mass-isn’t-giving-glory-to-God-debate, but that’s not what this post is about.
What this post is about, however, is this concert I mentioned. The cathedral will be host to the United States premier of Rachel Laurin’s Symphony No. 2, which in itself is pretty innocuous. Churches host concerts all the time, and so long as there’s nothing profane and the Blessed Sacrament is appropriately reposed elsewhere, they can prove to be quite beneficial for the community.
The premier of this symphony, though, is not the only aspect of this event. The concert is being held on Sunday, October 30th, the day before Halloween. So, naturally, the logical thing to do is post fliers around the Diocese advertising this concert as a great opportunity to show up at the Cathedral in costume. (I guess Sr. MaryAnn Binsack’s weekly “Casper” costume doesn’t sate the palate of these philistines.)
The Symphony contains themes from Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher,” a great work, to be sure. I am certain that Ms. Laurin’s work reflects the darkness of Poe’s writing, and I am in no way criticizing her music, the performance of it, or the quality of the performers. What I am criticizing, though, is the classless idea to dress up in (secular) costumes for a (secular) concert in a church, i.e. a sacred space. This extra little twist to an otherwise acceptable event is just like the Passion Mime, which crosses the line between what is in good taste and what is in bad taste. Concerts = wonderful. Costume parties in cathedral = not so wonderful.
Isn’t that a confusing equation? No, you say? Well, it must be confusing, seeing as how the people in charge of the music/social functions at Sacred Heart don’t seem to grasp this concept. The church is a place where people gather, ideally, to pray. Of course, well-built churches have good acoustics, and so concerts may serve to build up the reputation and financial stability of a church. Churches are not built to be used as settings for masquerade parties. They aren’t built to be suitable for good music. They aren’t even built to facilitate community interaction. They are built in order to gather the people of God together, not to talk, not to play dress-up, not to have pizza parties, but to worship.
But, of course, we can’t blame people if this concept, too, is confusing. When our churches look like social halls, and when the Mass turns into some sort of group self-help session with refreshments, how can we expect the people in charge to foster an environment of dignity and respect for the Blessed Sacrament?
So, while at the same time, there will be a Missa Cantata St. Stanislaus, you’re more inclined to see this at Sacred Heart: