Saturday 7 May 2011

Patrimonial Hymns

Great mirth at Allen Hall this week when, to the question "any difficulties you've met?", came the answer "the music". Why is it that the Catholic Church is so prescriptive about its liturgy, yet seems to allow any hymns/songs/ditties at Mass? I have been coopted to the little group in my local catholic parish which selects hymns for Sunday worship. The problems seems to be (1) the available hymn book and (2) the congregation's small familiar repertoire. Perhaps Ed Tomlinson has the answer; appeal for copies of English Hymnal. That could be right if you are setting up an Ordinariate church. But many of us will be trying to bring something of our Patrimony into an existing Catholic congregation. There seems to be genuine goodwill among many of those congregations to improve their standard of music - and the answer cannot be Gregorian Chant all round. Yet when on Easter Day the best anyone can come up with is "This is the day, this is the day, that the Lord has made that the Lord has made" ... and so on ad nauseam, there really must be something better.

Will the rite eventually approved for groups of former Anglicans include any help over the matter of Hymnody? Surely it is part of our Patrimony; not just because there are good tunes and decent verse, but because we have learned the faith from our treasury of hymns almost as much as from Sacred Scripture. Perhaps the Ordinary could make a start by banning all hymn books which contain more by Estelle M White than by Charles Wesley?

Today, though, great encouragement; the Organist at Our Lady Queen of Peace in Southbourne, where our local Ordinariate Group will make its home, has written in our parish newsletter "God gave you the voice you've got. Use it to praise Him! It doesn't matter if you don't think you can sing.. if you are still singing a hymn on the way home after Mass, you are carrying on with your prayer." My only addendum would be "provided the Hymn you are still singing is addressed to God, about God, not focussed on 'me' and 'I'".

PS does anyone else hate "here I am, Lord - Look at me, Lord..."?

Monday 2 May 2011

De Gustibus ...

Curious how we English can get thoroughly sentimental (banks of flowers for Diana, colour supplements for Kate) yet somehow shmaltz in religion leaves us cold. Or is it just me? Doubtless commenters will tell me.

I find that Bernini of the vision of St Teresa of Avila rather repellant - marble porn - though to some it is the apogee of Baroque art. Even more off-putting, though, is the imagery concerning "Divine Mercy". I saw it first on a poster at a bus-stop in St Albans, and thought it must be the product of some U.S. sect. Now I discover it is thanks to newly Blessed J-P II that we have this devotion. It's not devotion to the Mercy of God I find difficult; just the way it is depicted.

So is part of the Patrimony an approval for "less-is-more" - one simple image of the Crucified being more moving than a church full of plaster saints? It is easy to write this off as Protestant Puritanism - but is is there in Catholicism too, not just in Savonarola but also in the chasteness of Cistercian architecture.

But of course, there is no arguing where taste is concerned. Just disagreement.