What a weekend on the liturgical blogs! I am sure that you have seen the debate raging around the translation of the General Instruction on the Roman Missal that appears in the new translation of The Roman Missal, especially regarding the music to be sung at the entrance and at communion.
I had all of what I had read over the weekend in mind when I went to Mass yesterday morning. As I looked around at the people of Saint James, I realized that for most of them (perhaps for every one of them), the issues being bandied about have absolutely no relevance to their lives. For some reason, we have people who are coming back for another taste, or another try, at practicing their Catholic faith. Maybe our evangelization efforts are beginning to have some effect. We have people who are struggling with the reality that their loved ones are very, very sick. Some of the people at Saint James wouldn't have anything to eat if it weren't for our food pantry. When I watch people walk in procession to receive communion, I see joy, pain, heartache, despair, wonder, humility, fear, happiness: all kinds of emotions. I honestly believe that the people at my parish are just plain thankful. Thankful for a parish that offers a rich sacramental life; thankful for a place that greets them warmly and says "I missed you" when you miss a Sunday; thankful for the fact that we had another building on our property in which we could worship after our beautiful church building was closed; thankful for music that inspires; thankful for musicians that help lift our hearts to heaven; thankful for a pastor and a staff that work hard to inspire us to be better Catholics; thankful for the weekly assurance that there is at least one place in this huge city that will recognize us and love us; for some, thankful to have survived to see another Sunday.
It is into this motley crowd that a new translation of The Roman Missal will be implemented. I think it will all go fine in my parish, because we have a pretty good plan for catechesis. But, to be honest, I just don't think this whole argument about the singing of the propers will ever amount to a hill of beans to these parish people. The people have grown accustomed to singing hymns and songs at the entrance and at communion from a wide variety of traditions at Saint James. When we sing Soon and Very Soon as the opening song in Advent, you would swear that we were "goin' to see the king" right then and there. When we sing "Sweet, Sweet Spirit," you take the deepest breaths you have ever taken, 'cause without a doubt you know that you are being revived. Whether we like it or not, these hymns and songs have become a living part of the Mass for the majority of Catholics. To suggest that these be phased out over the next few years, to be replaced by the chanted propers (or even the propers set to other musical styles) is just not realistic.
The followers of this blog know that I love the liturgy and I deeply love the people with whom I celebrate Mass each week. I just think we are putting too much energy into something that just isn't going to fly for the vast majority of Catholic parishes.
As always, I welcome your comments, and there probably will be a few.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.