I attend a physically beautiful church. It’s a shrine to the Blessed Mother and last week was named a minor Basilica. It has gorgeous Spanish style brick work and stained glass and beautiful areas dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Black Madonna. It has an amazing pipe organ. Liturgically, we stand very much on the straight and narrow. Alas, no chant, but Pope Francis is not a chanter, so I get over it. We have TLM offered once a month at our parish.
And for the most part, I will always say my church is a beautiful church. But sometimes, the liturgy can be “uglied” a little. I try very hard to be charitable and I ask St Joseph (who sits on my physical side of the church btw) and the Blessed Virgin to help me with charity during my chosen mass time.
I like to go to mass FIRST THING in the morning. If there was a 6 AM mass on Sunday, I would be there. I want to greet God fresh and start my day that way. Our earliest mass is 8 AM.
Our church is very diverse. Which I think is a major plus. We have vibrant African American communities and Hispanic communities. We have many, many people from other countries and cultures. I have met Chinese, Nigerian, Arab and Filipino Catholics at our parish. And our diversity extends to music. We have a Gospel choir, Children’s Gospel Choir, Renaissance Choir, Children’s Choir and even a Resurrection Choir for funerals and 2 Latino bands for our Spanish masses. And we have a Contemporary Choir. They sing at 8 AM mass.
Now, I’m not a Marty Haugen or David Haas hater. At all. I actually like On Eagle’s Wings (ducking now as things are being thrown at me all over the Catholic internet). And I don’t even mind the piano or the acoustic guitars at mass. And our Contemporary choir now has a violin that does solos before mass during meditation/contemplative prayer time some Sundays that is lovely.
But we’ve had some recent additions that are, to say the least, distracting.
Electric guitars. Two of them. And, apparently, I’m not the only Catholic in the US having some issues with this. Like I said, I want to be charitable. It is, however, difficult to sing and “pray twice” when the church we happen to be in is not acoustically made for electric guitars so they literally rattle you. Not to mention when they do not play the melody and are so loud they drown out the piano AND the choir so you’re not always sure what the tune of the song actually is. More and more, I’m seeing congregants around me put their hymnals away and stop even trying. I actually had to leave 2 verses into a four verse recessional hymn because my jaw was shaking so much last week. And I’m a “sing til they stop” type.
I have some theories as to why electric guitars have replace acoustic at this mass. One is that they are easier to play and two men want to play them at mass. Another is that we are trying to attract millenials who are filling the mega-Evangelical-churches in our area. I’ll address the first issue in a moment, but for the second I will quote one of my fictional heroes, Hank Hill,
Our Lord and Savior doesn’t need your help keeping people’s interest.
And it goes without saying that the majority of folks at this mass, at a mass this early, are in the retirement age bracket for the most part, so, yeah…
Going back to the fact that two men want to play electric guitars in mass. Deep Breath. Is is always necessary to give every person who wants to contribute a way? (Duck, and cover) I mean, we clearly, in other ministries, do not allow just anyone to contribute their time and talent. Eucharistic ministers, I’m looking at you. Lectors, I’m looking at you. Heck, nursery workers and Catechists, I’m looking at YOU. We can’t and don’t just allow anyone to serve in those ministries. But the music ministry seems very, very different. Someone wants to contribute and no matter what, when, why or how, we tend to allow them. Now, it is kind of ridiculous to tell people they can’t sing in a group, like a choir, as the entire congregation is expected to sing the hymns. But, for instrumentation, it seems a bit different. And I’m not talking about a parish where there is limited talent and limited ability. As I’ve demonstrated in our diversity, we are quite talented. No short supply of it. So, two guys say they want to play electric guitars in mass, sure, go ahead.
So, here are my options:
1. Continue going to my desired mass and offer it up for people who cannot attend mass and make it a chance to further my growth in the virtue of charity.
2. Attend another mass at our parish.
3. Complain to the priest.
I’m not doing #3. Because while it’s ugly liturgy, it’s not abuse. And I know I will sound as petty and peevish as I already do in this blog post. And soon enough, as in, a few weeks, I will be attending a different mass anyway, one without a regular choir but with a cantor because Joey will start Faith Formation and it is after that mass not the earlier one so, it makes sense to not be sitting around for over an hour. At least, that’s my most likely scenario. In the mean time, I’m stuck with #1. Dang it. And for good measure, Joey and I will start attending TLM once a month. Once I get something to cover my hair with because while I’m not really thinking of doing it at the NO, I will never show my face (or hair) at TLM without a veil or mantilla or snood or something. Yeah, he still has to go to NO that day too. Clearly I’m going for mother of the year with him on that! 🙂 Next year Will is going to both too.
But back to the matter at hand. God has decided I need to learn charity and it looks like electric guitars at mass is how I’m learning it.