26 November 2007

From the Comments Box

This was in the comments box today, and I felt I would respond to it in a post, and invite others to have their say. A reader, Anonymous American, commented on the trouble he has been having with his parish choir, the priest and the congregation. From his description, he and I may work at the same choir. He concludes:

I was optimistic when I took my job and all of last year, but after seeing the outright hostility the congregation has for good music, I think I'm just going to give up on Catholic music. I may wind up in a Catholic church later on, but it'd only be because nothing else is available (which is how I got my current job). My advice is to leave your parish if there's a better one, convert to protestantism (my route) or just accept that you're not going to see good Catholic music in your lifetime. I'm 22 and I doubt that I ever will.

I too know the frustration of feeling a calling that cannot be fulfilled, or of being in possession of talents no one wants. I know what it means to suppress my true abilities because there is no demand for them. I speak not only of my time in Church and with the choirs, I speak of Life, my own. I know what it means to be more knowledgeable, to be better informed, to be more right than those who are in charge, and to watch them repeatedly make the wrong decisions, over my objections- simply because they are in charge, and I am not- and to know that they, or someone like them shall always be in charge, and I shall not. And I know disillusionment, and bitterness, and regret, and even despair. For a long time I have wrestled with these things. They are my constant companions.

Yet in spite of all this, I will stay the course to the best of my abilities. I have many reasons. First and foremost, Catholicism is the true Church of Christ- where else shall I go? Here reside the words of Truth and Life. Anywhere else, even with a better music program, is only second best.

Secondly, those of us who know better have a responsibility to teach those who don't, or to at least bear witness to those who don't. I believe I am the only one in my choir who knows about the GIRM, and Redemptionis Sacramentum, and Summorum Pontificum, and Tra La Sollecitudini, or who knows how to read neumes. Were I to leave, the number would go to zero- who then would help them, tell them the truth, or even just occasionally let them know there are ways other than their own?

You say at twenty two you don't expect to see any changes in your life time. At forty I have seen more changes than I ever would ever have thought possible. Some were good. Some were not. Some have not played out. I will see more, as will you. There are a lot of changes in the air right now- the recent motu proprio among them. It could be an extraordinary rite comes into being near you. It may need someone with experience in chant and polyphony. At any rate, if we leave, then our talents and gifts will not have a role in helping to shape the future.

Even so, I realize my endeavors will most likely end in failure. Such is the way. So be it. I take comfort in the wisdom of my betters, and here Mother Theresa's words come to me: "I was not called to be successful, but to be faithful." St. John of the Cross wrote: "We must do not that which is easy, but that which is difficult." Being Catholic is always difficult, but even so, I will not change.

I will remember you in my prayers.

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