FRIDAY-SUNDAY
May 31-June 2, 2002
volume 13, no. 101

The Germs of GIRM



Part Forty-eight: The Vernacular Variety Show

    "In many instances in a Novus Ordo Mass, however, the psalmist stands at an ambo (sometimes in the pulpit) and outdoes Mitch Miller as the leader of a gigantic sing-along hootenanny (exaggerated hand gestures, forced smiles, looks of concern, the moving of the head from side to side a la Charlie McCarthy, Mortimer Snerd or Jerry Mahoney)."

    Paragraph 100 of GIRM reads as follows:

    "In the absence of an instituted acolyte, lay ministers may be designated for service at the altar and to assist the priest and the deacon. They may carry the cross, candles, ashes, censer, bread, wine and water. As well, they may be designated to distribute Holy Communion as extraordinary ministers."

Comment and Analysis: Note the use of the word "minister" to refer to the role which used to go by the phrase "altar boy." Now, however, women are permitted to "serve" as "ministers" at the altar. And even though a recent document from the Holy See "gives" priests the right to exclude women from "service" at the altar (even if a particular diocesan ordinary permits their use in accord with the indult granted by Pope John Paul II in 1994 - can that really be eight years ago now?), the norm in most places across the country is that at least one girl or woman is discharging the "ministry" of an acolyte by means of delegation. This obliterates the distinction between men and women honored by our Lord Himself at the Last Supper, gives rise to a sense of entitlement and self-importance, and detracts from the action of the priest acting in persona Christi. Alas, the priest is merely presiding over a circus featuring a host of characters.

Paragraph 101 of GIRM reads as follows:

    "In the absence of an instituted reader, lay people may be designated to proclaim readings from the Sacred Scriptures. Such designated readers must be truly qualified and prepared for this office, so that the faithful will develop a warm and lively love for Sacred Scripture from listening to the reading from the sacred texts."

Comment and Analysis: It is not from the proclamation of the readings by a lay person during Holy Mass that we are to "develop a warm and lively love for Sacred Scripture." Such a love is meant to come from the fact that we accept the entirety of the Deposit of Faith found both in Sacred Scripture and in Sacred (or Apostolic) Tradition. Is GIRM saying that a layman or a laywoman who uses a good hand missal during the Traditional Latin Mass are incapable of developing a love of Sacred Scripture? Is GIRM saying that the proclamation of the Epistle and the Gospel by a priest in the vernacular after he has read them at the altar in Latin detracts from an appreciation of Sacred Scripture as being the inerrant Word of God? Or, more accurately, isn't GIRM really saying that the "liturgy" itself is more enriched if a layman or a laywoman has some formal role to play from the ambo while the priest looks on approvingly? Isn't GIRM really saying here that the lay faithful cannot develop a true love for Sacred Scripture unless one of their own proclaims at least some of the readings? Complete and utter nonsense.

Paragraph 102 of GIRM reads as follows:

    "The psalmist or cantor of the psalm is to sing the psalm or other biblical song that comes between the readings. To fulfill their function correctly, these psalmists should possess the ability to sing and an aptitude for correct pronunciation and diction."

Comment and Analysis: It is the case in the Traditional Latin Mass that the priest recites the Gradual (or Tract, depending upon the liturgical season) by himself. In the case of a Missa Cantata or a Solemn High Mass the Gradual or the Tract are sung by the schola or choir. In many instances in a Novus Ordo Mass, however, the psalmist stands at an ambo (sometimes in the pulpit) and outdoes Mitch Miller as the leader of a gigantic sing-along hootenanny (exaggerated hand gestures, forced smiles, looks of concern, the moving of the head from side to side a la Charlie McCarthy, Mortimer Snerd or Jerry Mahoney). And note that Paragraph 102 indicates that psalmists and cantors should be able to sing and should have an "aptitude" for correct pronunciation and diction. The ethos of entitlement from which the Novus Ordo springs and into which it feeds, however, results in the recruitment of individuals who have no talent to sing and who are lost in the English language altogether. So much for the "value" of the vernacular in making the Mass "clearer" to the people, huh?

Paragraph 103 of GIRM reads as follows:

    "The schola cantorum or choir exercises its own liturgical function among the faithful. Its task is to ensure that the parts proper to it, in keeping with the different types of chant, are carried out becomingly and to encourage active participation of the people in the singing. What is said about the choir applies in a similar way to other musicians, especially the organist."

Comment and Analysis: As I noted in an earlier chapter of this continuing analysis, it is indeed appropriate for the people to alternate with a schola cantorum or a choir in a sung Traditional Latin Mass. This is done quite exquisitely every Sunday at 11:00 a.m. in the sung Mass at Saint Agnes Church on East 43rd Street in Manhattan. However, there is no need to "encourage active participation" among the faithful. There are certain parts of the Mass (Asperges me, Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Sed libera nos a malo, and Agnus Dei) where the people sing alternately with the schola or the choir. Indeed, there are some parts of such a Mass where the people respond directly to the priest in Latin. That is part and parcel of a High Mass (which is meant to be the norm in the traditional Roman Rite; the Low Mass is actually derived from the High Mass and was instituted to meet the pastoral needs of the people). However, there is no need to "invite" the people to sing. The schola or the choir is out of sight in a choir loft, where their voices resonate in the beauty of Gregorian Chant. The Novus Ordo, on the other hand, encourages a virtual songfest, oftentimes including music and instruments wholly inappropriate for the decorum required of Holy Mass (as Father Chad Ripperger, FSSP.,noted recently in Latin Mass Magazine). Tradition teaches us what is appropriate, not some leader of song. The music in the Traditional Latin Mass leads one to a more fitting expression of the worship of God, not a sense of community self-congratulations for having some "active role" to "play" in the Mass.

Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.

      Next Week: Part Forty-nine: "Grin and Bear it?"

      For past columns in The DAILY CATHOLIC by Dr. Droleskey, see Archives



      May 31 - June 2, 2002
      volume 13, no. 101
      CHRIST or chaos
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