You might recall that, in the past, I have said that I am not interested in playing the "ping-pong" game of volleying proof texts back and forth in order to prove divergent points of view. Even as I write this, I know that there are some of you who follow this blog who will simply say, "There are no divergences of points of view. There is but one point of view, and that is the Church's point of view. Period. Here are the texts that prove my point." Those of you who share that viewpoint need not read any further, because you will probably not find what I am about to say consistent with your understanding. For those of you open to entering the "stew," read on.
How does a publisher make "a serious and professed commitment to the Church's vision of liturgical music?" As a publisher of music for the liturgy that is to be sung primarily in the United States, we must find our guidance from a number of sources, chiefly the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' newest document on music for the liturgy, Sing to the Lord. I would like to add my comments on a few sections of this work.
In the section "Music in Catholic Schools," the bishops have this to say: "Catholic educational institutions have a special obligation toward music and the Sacred Liturgy. Catholic schools are called to foster the joy of singing and making music, to cultivate the repertoire of sacred music inherited from the past, to engage the creative efforts of contemporary composers and the diverse repertoires of various cultures, and to celebrate the Sacred Liturgy worthily." When I first read this particular section, I thought to myself, "This is what our mission is as a Catholic music publisher: "to cultivate the repertoire of sacred music inherited from the past, to engage the creative efforts of contemporary composers and the diverse repertoires of various cultures, and to celebrate the Sacred Liturgy worthily." When I look at the various pieces of music we have published here over the years, I see our strengths in all three areas. We engage the creative efforts of many contemporary composers, and these are not composers who write music in just one style. Richard Proulx is a contemporary composer. Chrysogonus Waddell (God rest him) was a contemporary composer. John Angotti and Ed Bolduc are contemporary composers. Kathleen Basi is a contemporary composer. Kathleen Demny is a contemporary composer. Steven Warner is a contemporary composer. We represent and publish the diverse repertoires of various cultures. We publish music for the Latino community. Our "In Spirit and Truth" series is written by composers steeped in the African-American musical tradition. We also are committed to cultivating the sacred music inherited from the past. Just in my brief ten years here, I have seen us become much more focused in this area. We have responded to requests from priests and music directors to include the chants for the ordinary parts of the Mass in Latin, as called for by Sing to the Lord #75. We make these available in the vast majority of our worship resources now. We encourage our composers to use the great treasury of music as inspiration for new compositions. Some of our composers have mined the rich depths of the Graduale Romanum and the Graduale Simplex to create musical settings for the entrance and communion rites.
Paragraph 60 of Sing to the Lord says this: "Liturgical music today must reflect the multicultural diversity and intercultural relationships of the members of the gathered liturgical assembly. The varied use of musical forms such as ostinato refrains, call and response, song translations, and bilingual or multilingual repertoire can assist in weaving the diverse language and ethnicities of the liturgical assembly into a tapestry of sung praise." Again, when I read this section, I thought that this is really at the heart of our mission as a music publisher. We publish music in a variety of styles and in a variety of forms to help in the weaving of that "tapestry of sung praise."
When I think about our process for the reception, review, and publication of new music pieces, I think about the careful attention paid to texts by the theologians on our editorial staff. Paragraph 83 of Sing to the Lord says this: "Moreover, 'to be suitable for use in the liturgy, a sung text must not only be doctrinally correct, but must in itself be an expression of the Catholic faith' Therefore, 'liturgical songs must never be permitted to make statements about faith which are untrue.'" After we have done a thorough theological review of texts "in-house," we have submitted every piece of music that appears in our worship resources to the censor here in the Archdiocese of Chicago and no doctrinal errors have been reported. We take this mandate seriously because of our commitment to nurturing the faith of the Church through the music and texts we publish.
Finally, Paragraph 83 continues: "No matter what the genre of music, liturgical beauty emanates directly from that mystery and is passed through the talents of composers to emerge in music of the assembled People of God." We publish many genres of music and we assess the needs and wishes of the "assembled People of God" regularly. We must do this as a sound business practice and as a publisher committed to serving the needs of the Church.
Please feel free to comment. Gotta sing. Gotta pray.