To Whom It May Concern:
As you might know, many have attended the Youth 2000 retreats since they began here in Madison in 2009. Thank you for all of the work that you have put into these retreats. But, as you may know, one of the frustrations that many have stems from the music used during the weekend. It seems quite clear that the church consistently asks us for something higher, something more reverent than rock music during the Holy Mass (rock music is being used in a more general sense, for the sake
of this discussion).
Of course, this is not a new problem. For example, in 1905, Pope Pius X covered nearly the same issue
(with added emphases):
“[2.] It must be holy, and therefore avoid everything that is secular, both in itself and in the way in which it is performed. It must really be an art, since in no other way can it have on the mind of those who hear it that effect which the Church desires in using in her liturgy the art of sound.
“But it must also be universal in this sense, namely, that although each country may use in its ecclesiastical music whatever special forms may belong to its own national style, these forms must be subject to the proper nature of sacred music, so that it may never produce a bad impression on the mind of any stranger who may hear it.”
—Tra Le Sollecitudini, 1905
Now, as recently as 2005, this has been recognized as a problem yet again, except this time around, the music in question is rock music, instead of opera and theater music. But the effect and consequences is still the same as in 1905: introducing secular-styled music distorts the liturgy.
[with emphases added]
“[61.] The faithful need to know the standard Gregorian chants, which have been composed to meet the needs of people of all times and places, in virtue of their simplicity, refinement and agility in form and rhythm. As a result, the songs and hymns presently in use need to be reconsidered.
[. . .]
“[62.] A few responses made particular mention of music and singing at Youth Masses. In this regard, it is important to avoid musical forms which, because of their profane use, are not conducive to prayer.”
—Synod on the Eucharist, 2005
In addition to this, our Holy Father, in his many moves to bring more dignity and reverence to his Masses, has raised Gregorian chant to its rightful pride of place at the Masses he celebrates, which are a model for the world—a model for us to follow. But this is not just happening during his Masses in the Vatican City. Recently, encouraged by our Holy Father, all of the Masses in English at World Youth Day (WYD) in 2011 in Madrid featured the chanted Latin propers and ordinary, and following the proper chants, some traditional hymns. Sacrosanctum Concilium, the
Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy repeatedly stressed the importance and pride of place of chant in the liturgy, as well as innumerable other documents. [emphases added]
“[116.] The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services. But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action, as laid down in Article 30.”
—Sacrosanctum Concilium, 1963
In his first post-synodal apostolic exhortation, the Holy Father adds [emphases added]:
“[42.] Finally, while respecting various styles and different and highly praiseworthy traditions, I [Benedict XVI] desire, in accordance with the request advanced by the Synod Fathers, that Gregorian chant be suitably esteemed and employed as the chant proper to the Roman liturgy.”
—Sacramentum Caritatitis, 2007
All this seems to be reinforced even more by the change in language in the new English translation of the GIRM from song to chant in most places, but at the same time, still differentiating between a chant and a hymn. The church desires chant in the liturgy, because it is integral to the liturgy.
Even the founder of WYD, Blessed John Paul II, reiterated the need for sacred music in his 2003 chirograph on that very topic.
Regarding the propers of the Mass, the USCCB’s 2007 document Sing to the Lord, speaks quite highly
of the proper chants of the Mass.
“[117.] The proper antiphons from the liturgical books are to be esteemed and used especially because they are the very voice of God speaking to us in the Scriptures [. . .]”
—Sing to the Lord, 2007
Interestingly, the 1958 document, De Musica Sacra, makes a clear difference between religious music and liturgical music. Both are good, both can even be called sacred music, but both have distinctly different uses. [emphases added]
[5.] Gregorian chant, which is used in liturgical ceremonies, is the sacred music proper to the Roman Church; it is to be found in the liturgical books approved by the Holy See.
[. . .]
[9.] Hymns are songs which spontaneously arise from the religious impulses with which mankind has been endowed by its Creator. [...] Even such music can, at times, be admitted to liturgical ceremonies.
[. . .]
[10.] Religious music is any music which, either by the intention of the composer or by the subject or purpose of the composition, serves to arouse devotion, and religious sentiments. Such music "is an effective aid to religion". But since it was not intended for divine worship, and was composed in a free style, it is not to be used during liturgical ceremonies.
-De Musica Sacra, 1958
It other parts of the document, it states clearly that chant, polyphony, organ, and some other forms of music constitute liturgical music, and that there is also a separate genre of music called religious music, which is still important, but not appropriate for the liturgy. So called “Praise and Worship” music seems to fall under the categorization of religious music.
Based on the above points, and because the church has clearly stated on numerous occasions that Gregorian chant is “especially suited to the Roman Liturgy,” we, the undersigned, request the consideration of using, in Latin or English, chanted ordinaries and traditional Catholic hymns, or if at all possible, chanted ordinaries and propers at the Masses during the 2011 Youth 2000 retreat in Madison.
[Signatures will be inserted here]