A Deacon, Tony Flavin (@miserpeccator on Twitter) has taken me to task for bullying Paul Inwood.
Being traditionally inclined, my natural inclination is deference to those in Holy Orders of whatever degree - and proportional to the degree of orders. Thus a priest trumps a deacon, a bishop trumps a priest and the Holy Father is (below God) the Ace of Trumps. However, that natural inclination is somewhat tempered by the times we live in, which see confusion all around us, and contradictory messages from different members of the episcopate, let alone the diaconate.
In this instance, Deacon Flavin (is that the correct way of referring to him?) seems to be misunderstanding my point. I am clearly losing that gift of clear communication for which I was, heretofore, renowned... He thinks my complaints against Inwood were centred on musical taste.
If you read my criticisms of him (here and here) you will see that I was not, in fact, talking about his musical style for more than one sentence (a passing mention of the Gathering Mass, to which I did not even add a derogatory adjective, though I think my dislike was clear from the context).
However, I do think there is link between the points where I do take issue with him (hostility towards the EF, mis-understanding or misrepresentation of others and placing himself in judgement on the Holy Father, in an offensive manner) and his music. It is the ecclesiololgy behind it all; his 'vision' of the Church is clearly very different from mine, and is, I think, incorrect. Given his influence, and the fact he is directly employed by the Church, I think that is a serious issue, and I think he exemplifies one of the problems the Church in this country faces: a bureaucracy that has grown up over the years that is hostile to Rome and to Catholic tradition.
But now I do wish to turn to his music, and its like.
It is easy to mock the Alleluia-cha-cha or whatever it is called. However, as Deacon Flavin points out, many people like it. Indeed, according to him, and I have no reason to doubt him, hearing hordes of kids singing their hearts out to Shine Jesus Shine in the school chapel is powerful testimony. Surely, the argument goes, we should not object to music which brings people closer to Christ, merely because it is not to our taste.
My point is that such music may have its place (and in its place may indeed start the process of drawing people closer to Christ) but that place is not the liturgy of the Church. It is probably infant school and possibly junior school.
'But they like it in the senior school, too,' the answer will come. 'They certainly don't want to be singing all that Latin and chant.'
This is where (at last) the junk food of my title comes in. What children like and what is good for their growth and health are not the same thing. That also applies to adults.
One of the responsibilities of parents and teachers (and Deacons, come to that) is to wean people off the high-sugar high-satisfaction junk and onto a healthier diet. Merely because my kids would like a Mars bar and a bottle of pop for their packed lunch does not mean that I should acquiesce. Nor is my failure to do so a matter of personal taste - I too have a sweet tooth.
But the best advice I can get, from the competent experts and from the wisdom of ages, suggests a different diet, and I ignore that to my children's detriment.
The same applies to music for worship. The constant diet of saccharine-soaked music with sugary lyrics may well be popular (though it does induce nausea in many, and the number of teenagers so moved by this music that they continue to practice the Faith on leaving school is lamentably small). However my contention is that it does not grow people spiritually, nor does it offer fitting worship to the Triune God, to whom we should offer the very best we can.
The expertise both of the Church's official teaching on music and of the wisdom of the ages suggests that certain types of music - in the first place Chant, and also Sacred Polyphony - are fitted for worship and others aren't. That is not a matter of taste: musically, my instinctive taste is fairly cheap - I love the Beatles and I love big Romantic symphonies. But I would want neither in the Liturgy, because what they are doing, and the way they are doing it, are both inappropriate.
So out of a spirit of obedience I have sung chant and polyphony for many years, and - guess what - come to love them and find in them a depth of spirituality that Inwood et al's music will never approach. Surprise surprise: Mother Church was right.
Oddly enough, my kids, who in some cases have lamentable taste in contemporary music in my judgement (or in Ant and Dominique's case, a fondness for Disney songs...) have also learned to recognise the transcendental and prayerful qualities of sacred music - because I have subjected them to it for years.
Trying a bit of chant once or twice in a School Mass, and then concluding that children can't relate to it, is quite simply the wrong approach; of course they will vote for the Mars bar, in that context... We need to have the courage of the Church's conviction, and educate them in the Faith, culturally, intellectually, aesthetically and every other way we can.
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