Pope-ular music

April 16, 2008
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With Pope Benedict XVI on his U.S. tour, attention is being paid to just about every aspect of the Catholic Church…including its music. Not only is the playlist for the Pontiff’s stadium mass in Washington being scrutinized, but thoughts are also turning to what’s being sung during the typical Sunday mass around the country.

Writes Hank Stuever in the Washington Post: “The backlash against ‘Kumbaya Catholicism’ has anyone under 40 allegedly clamoring for the Tridentine Mass in Latin, while the old folks are most sentimental about Casual Sunday (even more rockin', the Saturday vigil Mass), and still cling to what's evolved from the lite-rock guitar liturgies of the 1970s. The result, for most parishes, has been decades of Masses in which no one is entirely satisfied and very few enjoy the music enough to sing along.”

So, whatever your faith, what music satisfies you spiritually? Should religious groups adjust their music choices to current trends?

And is the day of “Day by Day” long past?

Your thoughts?
  • When worship becomes about the style of music we have during mass or at a service then the whole point is lost. There are many different service styles and certainly it can be argued that some styles of music may be more conducive to a worship/spiritual experience, but nowadays people often only go to certain churches because of their music style.

    Is that what the mass/service/church/spirituality is all about? I don't always like all of the music at my church, but I am there to worship and to connect with the body of Christ in a group setting. Not to check to see if they played all of my favorite songs!

    Do certain styles of music lift me spiritually more than others? Sure, but I don't shop for a church/spiritual experience only based on music style. That can be pretty shallow.

    The music that lifts me spiritually is varied and from often surprising sources. I've been going through a bunch of old stuff I used to listen to in the late 70s early 80s (think Yes, Kansas, Saga, etc.) and am surprised at how it has been moving me spiritually.

    The one current artist who I listen to whose music moves me the most is Sufjan Stevens.
  • I am not particularly religious, but bluegrass and country gospel both are powerful enough to bring tears to my eyes and make my heart race.
  • Last week at church our music minister picked 5 songs I had never before heard. All of them were written in the last 20 years, and they all sounded alike. Just like Alan Jackson's hit Gone Country, apparently everyone's gone religious on these songs. It matters to me that the music in church is meaningful. Sorry if that's shallow.
  • I find that a vast range of music can be spiritually satisfying. A Bach chorale, a Carrie Newcomer song, a Gregorian chant... all can touch the deepest places of my heart. But only when the intention/heart of the musicians are embedded in the sound. Increasingly, our music is a consumer product...and sometime musicians churn it out in a soulless fashion, producing sounds that are empty of meaning. The church is not immune to this temptation. Is music chosen to expand upon the day's message? To create a mood? To connect to the Holy One? Which types of music will do that best? Is there a best? Is music chosen to support the message...or for congregation entertainment...or both?
  • I find many different kinds of music spiritually satisfying.

    I wouldn't choose a church based solely on its music, but Frank Bole's music program at St. Paul's Episcopal Church is definitely one of the main reasons that I keep going back there. It is not just because I enjoy hearing the music.

    I hadn't been to St. Paul's since before it was renovated (i.e. - since before Christmas) but I went to Easter vigil and appreciated anew Bole's fierce, humble, and enduring commitment to musical excellence as an expression of love for God. He and all of the musicians at St. Paul's inspire me to make sure that I, too, am being a good steward of my (non-musical) gifts.

    The huge, new organ sounds and looks beautiful, too.

    I don't know enough about music to be able to describe the kind that is played at St. Paul's, but it is closer to the Latin end of the spectrum than the kumbaya end. I save Kumbaya for campfires and road trips.

    Hope Baugh
  • While we all can pray and feel spiritual without music or even words, I love religious services accompanied by the beautiful classical work of the masters--Bach, Bethovan, Mozart, Rutter, Copeland, Elgar, .... Yesterday, Second Presbyterian Church sang a beautiful Agnes Dei composed by a young man here in Indianapolis. Breathtakingly beautiful.

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