PUTTING THE BASS IN THE MASS

The debate of classical versus contemporary music during a Catholic mass.

Suddenly, the piano stopped pa-plinking, the singers stood straighter, and a reggae-ish beat began to wind its ways through the pews. I wasn’t in some Baptist church… I was in Corpus Christi Catholic Church! Whoa… aren’t Catholic masses the one where everyone sings like you’re in a monastary?

My church is your typical Catholic mixture found in a Florida big town: mostly older white adults, couples between 30-50 years old with really young kids, teenagers missing, and sprinkles of minorities.With the new priest came his idea of giving the music ministry full artistic lisence for each mass.  Of course, I’m already imagining complaints from the elderly for the solemnity of the mass being broken with dance hall rhythmns.

As for me, I definitely welcome upbeat music at church. St. Augustine once said that singing is twice praying… so I see music as just another method of sending our thanks and praises to God. The styles don’t matter as long as the message is strong. I’ve always wished that Catholic masses would be sprinkled with upbeat songs like those found in the movie Sister Act.

Now that I’ve said that… I didn’t really enjoy the music during this mass. It’s not because I didn’t recognize each one (it’s always nice to be able to sing-along), but the music should only be a supplement to the mass itself. I felt that the overwhelming beat drowned out the prayers found in the songs. Did I feel like I was praising God in the music? Not at all. I felt like I was watching a talent show with each the different performers competing for the attention of the audience. Perhaps the worst thing that a musician could have done occured during the communion. First, the set of songs started with a solemn, but beautiful song. Suddenly, the pounding, reggie-ish song came out of nowhere– during communion! I was kneeling there telling God to please watch over my family and take care of my grandparents when my concentration got completely bombed by the trumpets. Communion music should reflect the serious prayers of the parishioners… or at least lead them in prayer. If you’re going to lead the people in a worship, dance number, you should either do it at the beginning or the end… not during one of the most holy parts of the mass.

Of course, one must also remember that it’s not what WE want that makes a mass… it’s for gathering to worship God.

Like I said, I really love it when churches play upbeat Christian music, but there are still appropriate times to play certain styles as well as how to play it. The point of church music is to help you focus on the main parts of the mass… not on the music itself. I’ve been to LifeTeen masses before (which are Catholic masses aimed at teens with contemporary music) and places like the Light of Christ in Clearwater have perfected the use of upbeat, Christian music in church. Personally, I’ve been to MANY types of Catholic masses (with MANY types of musics) and the best music during mass are not the ones that sound like it’s from a Christian pop album… but the upbeat guitar and drum combos that make you clap and raise your hands.

Then again, this is just the first mass at Corpus Christi with the new music. Hopefully, the music ministry will realize its mistakes and make the small changes before the next mass.

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