The Day I Rapped At Mass (Liturgical Architecture At Its Worst)
It was a cold winter night, but the microphones were hot and awaiting our Liturgical Worship Team to lead the congregation in the sung Psalm response at our Life Teen Mass. At that time I was a very young adult, fresh out of high school, with some liturgical music training and a head full of ideas. I stood up with the team I was leading and began to strum the guitar. The djembe drum began to lay out the beat and we began to sing the sung response. To the congregation’s surprise, however, we did not sing the verses. I rapped them. I, the whitest kid this side of Detroit was rapping the Psalm. I had been “inspired” by the song “Psalm 51” by Father Stan Fortuna, who likewise rapped the song on his Sacro Song album. In hindsight, however, I think if Fr. Stan knew I had rapped during Mass, he would have strangled me with his cincture. The congregation seemed relatively unphased by my rapping, however. My friends in the parish supported it. My superiors, though well intentioned, were surprised and did not correct me. I thought I did something awesome. As I was kneeling at the Extraordinary Form Mass today, I thought back to 10 years ago and remembered that. At that time, I treated the Life Teen Mass like it was the highest form of catholic worship possible. Now , ten years later, here I knelt in silent prayer during a Solemn Traditional Latin Mass that I attend weekly and I realize how wrong I was.
A lot can happen in ten years and I am glad it did. As I have grown in my understanding and orthodoxy, I have realized that the Mass is not something I can or should ever want to control. We are to be of service to the action of the Liturgy, not vice versa. Across the Catholic Church in the West, Liturgical Music Ministry has taken on an identity all its own. In many parishes, we see music ministries treating the Mass as if it is theirs to manipulate and change to their whims. Diocesan priests are trained in many places that they should not implement Liturgical changes quickly, unless it is blatantly abusive. They must wait to make these changes slowly so that the parish can warm up to them. The parishioners, in many places, become the liturgists and mess with the Mass until it suits their desires. I recently attended a parish where this idea was in full display. I barely recognized the Mass because the music was absolutely horrid, and there was needless additions throughout the entire Mass. It is truly weird going from experiencing the TLM(Traditional Latin Mass) regularly to a poorly celebrated Novus Ordo (which takes up almost 90%) of the places I have visited.
When did the parishioners become Liturgists?
Truth, Beauty, and Goodness are three philosophical criteria the Church encourages us to use to analyze art. We see that historically speaking, however, art has taken an unfortunate turn in the 19th and into the 20th century. Form has gone out the window and has given way to impressionism. Emotion drives art instead of the intellect. As a culture, we no longer hold art up to those three criteria.This takes its form in many ways from music to architecture. This can been seen quite well while taking the Chicago Architectural River Cruise. My wife and I enjoyed this cruise while on our honeymoon, yet we still recall to this day the words of the 65 year old tour guide who exclaimed, “Now here is the beauty of modernism!” She pointed to a boring building. It had nothing but a plain exterior. We had just been shown some very beautiful baroque style building. This modernist building was anything but beautiful in comparison, but she was ecstatic!
This poor attitude toward beauty has found its way into our churches and shrines in the last 50 years. Just look at the parishes built since 1963. They have lost a lot of what made Catholic churches so glorious throughout history. Our Novus Ordo Masses have also followed. The music, instead of being focussed on God and His glory, is focussed on us. In so many places we have given rise to a false idea of Mass. Many poorly informed Liturgists tell us that Mass is a service to the people, and so the people must have their way. Truth be told, although Mass is a service to us because God humbles Himself through the hands of the priest to become our food, while at the same time, offers Himself on our behalf to the Father in the same sacrifice of calvary, we must also, more importantly, be at the service of the Mass. The Mass is bigger than us. It is bigger than the Pope and Clergy. Mass is even bigger than Mary and the Angels and Saints. Mass is the once for all sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross for us. That is a big deal and must be recognized by us.
Some people can withstand experiencing poorly celebrated Masses over and over again. As I got older, I become more disillusioned with priests who celebrated Mass as if it belonged to them. I kept seeing my old self in these music ministries but to an even worse extent. I prayed that the Lord would bring a Diocesan approved Latin Mass to my area and He heard my plea. I encourage you, if you struggle with these things, find a diocesan parish, whether Novus Ordo or TLM, where Mass is celebrated properly. I spent many years feeling bitter about my Liturgical circumstances. I prayed, however, and the Lord heard me. Pray for the holiness and fidelity of priests. Pray also for Liturgical Music Ministries that they would be convicted to serve the Mass reverently. Also pray for me, because I know the Lord will hold me to account for the day I rapped during His Mass. Pray that never happens again.
Mea Culpa Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa.