Saturday, June 19, 2010

Marty Haugen and Sacred Music

Everywhere I've gone, it seems I keep running into one of my least favorite Church songs - "All are Welcome." I obviously don't have a problem with welcoming people, but it is such an odd song to sing at Mass. Is anyone really standing in the narthex wondering if they are welcome? Of course not! So then why do we sing it all the time no matter what Church I go to?

This raises the broader issue - what is Sacred Music today? A hymn is a song of praise TO GOD, but everything I hear at Catholic Masses today seems to be a tribute to us, the people assembled. Today, even songs addressed to God still manage to convey more of a description of what God should be doing instead of offering him praise. Examples of terrible liturgical music include but are certainly not limited to:
"Let US build a City of God" (We can't build the City of God, Catholic Doctrine 101),
"Sing a New Church" (What is wrong with the one Christ founded on Peter?),
"We Remember" (the next line should be ...nothing before 1970),

In recent years, I've realized that there is a real and important battle over Sacred Music. We have such a long and glorious history of Catholic Hymns, yet virtually everything in the Gather song book and the Glory and Praise song books (the hymnals used by the majority of parishes in our country) feature songs written during the 1970's and 1980's. Most of those were written by Marty Haugen, who is a member of the United Church of Christ!!! How can this be??

I am all for new music, but can we still admit that A FEW THINGS from before 1970 are still admissible in Church? We have to encourage our young Catholic artists, song writers, and musicians to love the Church and Her Tradition while at the same time encouraging them to find new ways to sing praise to God. What we must leave behind is the self-centered narcissism and psychobabble found in so much of our current liturgical music.

Finally, I point you to a new trend. Ignatius Press has put out a beautiful new hymnal (the Adoremus Hymnal) which features great hymns, both new and old, and a parish in our neighboring Lafayette Diocese has put together a similar hymnal called St. Michael Hymnal. The St. Michael Hymnal has taken off in recent years and is being used around the country. As parishes are forced to acquire new hymnals as the liturgical texts are being updated, pray that parishes make the wise decision about which hymnals to purchase moving forward!