Music at Mass

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

This is not a question but an observation from a 60 year old cradle Catholic who has sung Gregorian Chant, Benjamin Britten, Dave Brubeck, Vaughn Williams, Michael Joncas, David Haas, Rory Cooney, and so many others in 100 member choirs at Notre Dame, scholas at cathedrals, and folk choirs in many places. I often find myself caught up in this discussion.

The transcendentals (the true, the beautiful, and the good) should always be held in service to the One. Many people were attracted/are attracted to the communal component of folk music. They want to be full and active participants in the Mass.

Some of the most beautiful music of the past is not communal. The styles that are (chanted forms of the parts of the Mass that have been long repeated and folk music which is meant to be song by a community) can be off putting to musicians (myself included), but are more inclusive than some of the higher forms of music.

So, two points: I try to enjoy both (and, the more I try, the more I am successful); I try not to sit in judgment of music that has appropriate words (lex orandi) and is well-presented.

As a liturgical musician and minister, I try to choose the best examples of every genre that has been given an imprimatur for liturgical use. I think that I am mostly successful, but I have lived long enough to know that I do not/cannot satisfy all, especially those that live on the extremes of the debate. The eye of the beholder, I suppose.

Blessings to all who try to live in the reality of liturgical work.


A: Beautiful reflections. Thanks for sharing these, and for your long ministry in the Church.