~from The Madison Catholic Herald by Bishop Robert Morlino
As I have said repeatedly, everything that we do or do not do at the Eucharistic liturgy teaches. Pope Benedict has called us recently to a reflection about the music that is sung during the liturgy, and in fact our national bishops' conference will be considering this matter further at our coming meeting in November.
Music during the Mass
The question arises, does some of the music routinely sung embody the incorrect overemphasis on the presence of Christ in the assembly, so that people are confused as to the importance of the sacramental intensity of His presence, especially under the signs of bread and wine.
Certain songs come to mind where the lyrics raise a real question for me. For example: "We are called, We are chosen, We are Christ for one another, We are a promise, We are sower, We are seed, We are question, We are creed." Singing that song repeatedly teaches people something, and I am afraid that it is something that I as Bishop do not want to teach them, but we certainly need to begin a dialogue about these matters. [emphasis mine]
Another example of this same problem would be the lyrics of the hymn Gather Us In [heh, heh, heh...rubs hands in glee], where a seemingly endless explanation is given to God about who We are, who are gathered in.
Pope Benedict has said that the music at Mass is not an extrinsic accompaniment to the liturgy, but is intrinsically part of our prayer of praise and adoration and thanksgiving to the Lord. The words of the songs we sing should be focused on giving praise and adoration to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, rather than explaining to God things about ourselves or even praising ourselves.
When we gather for the Eucharist, we gather as sinners as the beautiful Eucharistic Preface teaches: "You have no need of our praise, yet our desire to thank You is itself Your gift. Our prayer of thanksgiving adds nothing to Your greatness, but makes us grow in your grace, through Jesus our Lord." That prayer of the Church contains the truth about the assembly. We are an assembly in whom Christ is indeed present, an assembly blessed with this wonderful gift even though we are sinners. The music we sing at Mass should teach nothing different than that.
Open discussion about music at Mass
I make these observations in order to open a discussion about the music we sing at Mass, in the context of my addressing my second focal point since coming to Madison (vocations has been the first focal point), of liturgy and catechesis. This is just the beginning of a discussion. I will in the near future be issuing additional guidelines for music at celebration of Confirmation only (which will take effect next Easter), and any further liturgical approaches that we take as a diocese will depend on the continuing wisdom which Pope Benedict offers us about liturgical music, on the wisdom we receive from our deliberations as a National Conference of Bishops, and upon the reflections I hear from our good priests and people in the days ahead.
But I write this present communication in the hope that pastors and brother priests, deacons, and various liturgical ministers in the parishes will begin to reflect on and discuss this particular important matter, so that the liturgical prayer of our people will be more integral with and more expressive of authentic spirituality and theology, and as a result our faithful people who pray that prayer will be even more holy than so many of you already are.
We must remember that as we pray before the "Holy, Holy, Holy," the angels and saints are present with us giving praise to the Trinity. The hymns we sing should be worthy of the participation of the angels and saints.
Oh, please, please, please, can we have this discussion in the Diocese of Raleigh soon?