Pastor’s Corner – September 21

with Fr. James

Here is yet another “Pop Quiz” question about Vatican II’s teachings on the Mass.
4. What musical instrument did Vatican II state to be most suitable for the use in Mass?
a. Piano
b. Guitar
c. Pipe organ
d. Violin
e. Harp
ANSWER: c. Pipe organ.

“120. The pipe organ is to be held in high esteem in the Latin Church, for it is the traditional musical instrument, the sound of which can add a wonderful splendor to the Church’s ceremonies and powerfully lifts up men’s minds to God and higher things.

But other instruments also may be admitted for us in divine worship….This may be done, however, on the condition that the instruments are suitable, or can be made suitable, for sacred use; that they accord with the dignity of the temple, and that they truly contribute to the edification of the faithful.” (The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, #120.)

You may have no idea how controversial it was when guitars were introduced into the Mass in the late 1960s. And there were good reasons for controversy. For one thing, the musical ability of people leading Mass with guitars in most parishes was weak to say the least, and most of the music was lyrically, musically, and theologically pretty lame stuff. Since there was no tradition of American folk-style music used at Mass, the music used was either very recently composed, or borrowed directly from the popular folk and pop song repertoire. We are blessed that the quality of new compositions has greatly improved in recent decades.

But why we use guitars and pianos rather than organs at the Newman Center and many parishes is a sociological question we won’t go into now. Although other instruments are allowed, they are allowed, but not preferred. The Vatican still agrees with the Council Fathers that the pipe organ is to have “pride of place”.