Skip to comments.St. Louis Jesuits: 'I don't think we're rebels at all' (liturgical music)
Posted on 05/06/2006 5:33:23 AM PDT by NYer
"There are people," says Jesuit Father John Foley, with a hint of a smile, "who have complained that we wrecked the whole tradition of church music."
"We" meaning the St. Louis Jesuits, whose collaborative composing efforts remain arguably the single greatest influence on contemporary liturgical music of the post-Vatican II era. Writing Scripture-based music (itself a revolution of sorts) in a style of music that was more in keeping with that of the secular world and thus more familiar to many ears (itself not just revolutionary but heretical, in the minds of some --- and nothing less than musical manna, in the minds of others), the SLJs continue to influence generations of composers.
In the past few years, after having gone their separate ways in the mid-1980s while remaining active in liturgy and music, the SLJs --- Dan Schutte and Jesuit Fathers Foley, Bob Dufford and Roc O'Connor --- have reunited for several concerts (including one at the recent Religious Education Congress in Anaheim) and a new recording of liturgical music ("Morning Light," on Oregon Catholic Press).
While in Anaheim, the quartet gathered for an interview with The Tidings that touched on liturgical and musical issues in today's church. Here is some of what they had to say:
Q: How does the climate for composing liturgical music today compare with that of 25-30 years ago, when your music was first becoming accepted?
Schutte: In the early days, we were trying to fit in, in a good Ignatian way, into the times. Back then, people were still getting their feet wet, taking baby steps in this newer style, in response to what was happening. The climate for composing these days is certainly very different than in the early '70s. Because there are so many published composers now, the sheer volume of music being offered is astounding. And in the last 35 years, many of the ritual needs and themes have been covered. So it's much more of a challenge to a composer to create something that is both unique and, at the same time, helpful for people's communal prayer.
Q: What has been the effect of the revised General Instruction on the Roman Missal on your composing?
Foley: Through the GIRM, the church I think is trying to heal itself, to make the worship experience more contemplative. We have had various paradigms of liturgy. I think what the church (Rome, the bishops) is saying with the General Instruction is, let's make it good liturgy. When we began composing, we used Scripture, which was important for reasons we didn't fully realize then. We really were just using a more popular, more familiar style of music to communicate the word of God to the faithful.
Schutte: A lot of people, in fact, were not aware of what Scripture had to say until they heard it in our music. They would hear one of our songs, and then later on read the Scripture passage that it was based on, and say, "Oh, so that's earthen vessels." To make the liturgy something that lives in people's lives is really what we have tried to do in our music by using Scripture, and then to expand that for people to use in their own personal prayer.
O'Connor: When we talk about the GIRM, it's important to read it closely, more intently in order to fully understand and appreciate what it is saying, because there is a theological and pastoral intent in it that gets lost amidst "the rules." The GIRM talks about the meaning of what we do in liturgy, and that's very important. That's helped me shape what I do in composing. So we need to look at it more broadly rather than strictly in terms of fulfilling the rubrics.
Dufford: In liturgical workshops that I do, I've called people to a more contemplative approach to Mass. There needs to be depth to what we do in liturgy, which is what the GIRM is also saying. Now if you're saying its impact or effectiveness needs to be measured in how many times we kneel, how long we ring bells, how high we raise our hands in prayer, well, you're losing the point. It is, I think, a very welcome document.
Schutte: Years ago, when we would do workshops, we would always emphasize the need for silence in the liturgy; let the words, the ritual actions of the Mass sink in. Now the Instruction calls us to do that, in very specific words.
O'Connor: St. Ignatius always said, "Put the best interpretation on it," whatever "it" might be. We need to ask ourselves, "How does this document lead us to the best expression of God's presence in our lives?" And that's what we need to ask in our composing efforts as well.
Q: Talk about music and its purpose in liturgy.
Foley: Music in liturgy is supposed to carry the words to people in a particular way, but the text is really the key element.
Dufford: In [Schutte's] song, "Here I Am Lord," there is a call and response mechanism that people don't always see. The verses are calling; the refrain is a response. But at Mass, the people almost always sing verses and refrain. And that's fine, but it's also good to really examine the text in order to use a song to its greatest effectiveness. Early on, in our published music, we would put in chords and descriptions of the pieces, the high and low points, in order to help people sing more effectively.
Schutte: Text and prayer are key in liturgical music. In structuring a song, it's important to place great care in how you accent the words within the music. Don't rush the words through. For us, it's always been a matter of keeping the focus on the prayer; the music supports the prayer.
Dufford: Keep in mind, too, that the emphasis is not on performing the song or the words; it's on the experience of God, and as musicians and composers our task is to help people experience God as fully as they can, whether it be in worship, on retreat or in the course of daily living.
Q: After three decades, are we to the point of overload in liturgical music? Or are there areas that have not been addressed as fully?
Schutte: In the history of art and music, there are reasons for creative breakthroughs. Someone gets a new or bright idea and puts it out there, and others pick up on it.
Dufford: Like Taizé. That was a very distinctive style, very meditative, very easy to connect with and sing with, and it has become very popular.
O'Connor: I still think there is something wonderful about searching for ways to help people connect with their inner selves and God. I hope there is always something that allows that to happen. I know that it's certainly another thing to be composing at our age than it was 30 years ago. It's assuring to know that the St. Louis Jesuits wrote music that still influences people.
Foley: It's important to acknowledge that the kind of music we have written, and are writing, is not in any way the paradigm for contemporary liturgical music. We definitely love and respect other styles different from ours. The issue, though, regardless of how you write, is making sure that people can participate, and by that I mean not simply in being able to sing the notes but in embracing the prayer and the meaning of the text.
Q: How has chant influenced your composing? (Ed. note: All four have written pieces in the chant style.)
Foley: I love chant. The problem is that not all churches use it, so it's more limited. We have used various models infused into our music. And our music, by the way, isn't folk music, even though some described it that way, especially early on. It's not "youth music," either, although inevitably youth were drawn to it.
Schutte: The GIRM calls us to preserve chant, which is appropriate. I would say that no music of any age should be excluded from possible use. The danger in using only contemporary or only chant is that people exposed to only one style can come to believe that this is the sensibility of the church today. It really opens up one's perspective to use a variety of musical styles from different times and from over the centuries of our tradition. That's a richness which we, as liturgical and music ministers, are called to preserve.
Foley: What the bishops, the Vatican, the documents of the church are after is quite reasonable: Let's make sure that we reflect, in our music, the faith as the church believes. Because music does make a lot of difference to people. I've been on the bishops' subcommittee on liturgical music, and I remember back at the very first NPM conference when we handed out copies of the CSL to people --- and many were totally unfamiliar with it. I don't think we're rebels at all.
Q: Your music has had a profound effect on many other composers and liturgists. As you compose today, what composers or other kinds of influences --- music styles, cultures, e.g. --- have an impact on you?
Dufford: I would say Taizé, which when I first heard it was very different from what I had been doing. Also, the retreat work that I do is very influential. Listening to the life stories that people on retreat share has affected me quite a lot. Through that experience, from what I see in people, it realty gives me more hope for the church.
Foley: For the last five years I've written weekly website reflections on the Sunday Scriptures, and it's been interesting to be that close to the Gospel. It's converted me, really, to see exactly what Jesus did and how he was touched. That's been a wonderful experience, because it is an attempt on my part to really help the Sunday Mass become the Mass of the people. How would we live our lives if we had the Scriptures and the life of Jesus in our heads all week?
Schutte: I've sort of rediscovered chant in recent years. And, although it's been 20 years since I left the Jesuits, I recently re-connected with St. Ignatius through the project I've done with Bill Heubsch and Twenty-Third Publications, a set of Ignatian spiritual exercises with music. And at the University of San Francisco [where he is composer in residence], I have a unique challenge in that I work with students who have their own preferences on music. There is much I love about it; they find something in it that really connects with their own spirituality. Yet the music sometimes becomes more important than text, so I have to find ways to bring the music they like together with a meaningful expression of Scripture.
Foley: The Life Teen movement has been very interesting; it's very powerful to see how parts of the Mass, especially the Eucharistic Prayer, become very holy to these youth. And to hear what they can do with older music --- I once heard a reggae version of "One Bread, One Body" that I would have thought couldn't be done, but it was, and done very well.
O'Connor: My influences right now include Renaissance dance music and Southern Gospel. Also, I teach a class on sacraments, and reading the works of John Macmurray is very helpful in knowing how to read the GIRM. And so is just being part of healthy discussions on liturgical prayer, and being aware of what other folks are doing.
And let's pray he leaves it alone.
Amazing that he thinks it's a laughing matter. Of course, one of the boys, Dan Schutte, left the Jesuits and recently "married" his male paramour in SF - where he is employed by the Jesuits as composer-in-residence and music director for campus ministry at the University of San Francisco. 'Nuff said?
I think the reshuffling of the Jesuits that the Pope appears to have planned for 2008 is coming about 40 years too late. Better late than never, though.
"Schutte: I've sort of rediscovered chant in recent years.
NYer: And let's pray he leaves it alone."
Amen to that.
Go to http://www.rulersofevil.com and download the first few chapters (for free) to learn more than you wanted to know about the Jesuits.
Rebels? Nah. Mediocrities? Yeah, that's got it.
The Paranoid Style in American Politics
By Richard Hofstadter
Harpers Magazine, November 1964, pp. 77-86.
It had been around a long time before the Radical Right discovered itand its targets have ranged from the international bankers to Masons, Jesuits, and munitions makers.
American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in the Goldwater movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. But behind this I believe there is a style of mind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wind. I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind. In using the expression paranoid style I am not speaking in a clinical sense, but borrowing a clinical term for other purposes. I have neither the competence nor the desire to classify any figures of the past or present as certifiable lunatics., In fact, the idea of the paranoid style as a force in politics would have little contemporary relevance or historical value if it were applied only to men with profoundly disturbed minds. It is the use of paranoid modes of expression by more or less normal people that makes the phenomenon significant.
Of course this term is pejorative, and it is meant to be; the paranoid style has a greater affinity for bad causes than good. But nothing really prevents a sound program or demand from being advocated in the paranoid style. Style has more to do with the way in which ideas are believed than with the truth or falsity of their content. I am interested here in getting at our political psychology through our political rhetoric. The paranoid style is an old and recurrent phenomenon in our public life which has been frequently linked with movements of suspicious discontent.
Here is Senator McCarthy, speaking in June 1951 about the parlous situation of the United States:
How can we account for our present situation unless we believe that men high in this government are concerting to deliver us to disaster? This must be the product of a great conspiracy on a scale so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man. A conspiracy of infamy so black that, which it is finally exposed, its principals shall be forever deserving of the maledictions of all honest men. What can be made of this unbroken series of decisions and acts contributing to the strategy of defeat? They cannot be attributed to incompetence. The laws of probability would dictate that part of [the] decisions would serve the countrys interest.
Now turn back fifty years to a manifesto signed in 1895 by a number of leaders of the Populist party:
As early as 1865-66 a conspiracy was entered into between the gold gamblers of Europe and America. For nearly thirty years these conspirators have kept the people quarreling over less important matters while they have pursued with unrelenting zeal their one central purpose. Every device of treachery, every resource of statecraft, and every artifice known to the secret cabals of the international gold ring are being used to deal a blow to the prosperity of the people and the financial and commercial independence of the country.
Next, a Texas newspaper article of 1855:
It is a notorious fact that the Monarchs of Europe and the Pope of Rome are at this very moment plotting our destruction and threatening the extinction of our political, civil, and religious institutions. We have the best reasons for believing that corruption has found its way into our Executive Chamber, and that our Executive head is tainted with the infectious venom of Catholicism. The Pope has recently sent his ambassador of state to this country on a secret commission, the effect of which is an extraordinary boldness of the Catholic church throughout the United States. These minions of the Pope are boldly insulting our Senators; reprimanding our Statesmen; propagating the adulterous union of Church and State; abusing with foul calumny all governments but Catholic, and spewing out the bitterest execrations on all Protestantism. The Catholics in the United States receive from abroad more than $200,000 annually for the propagation of their creed. Add to this the vast revenues collected here.
These quotations give the keynote of the style. In the history of the United States one find it, for example, in the anti-Masonic movement, the nativist and anti-Catholic movement, in certain spokesmen of abolitionism who regarded the United States as being in the grip of a slaveholders conspiracy, in many alarmists about the Mormons, in some Greenback and Populist writers who constructed a great conspiracy of international bankers, in the exposure of a munitions makers conspiracy of World War I, in the popular left-wing press, in the contemporary American right wing, and on both sides of the race controversy today, among White Citizens Councils and Black Muslims. I do not propose to try to trace the variations of the paranoid style that can be found in all these movements, but will confine myself to a few leading episodes in our past history in which the style emerged in full and archetypal splendor.
Illuminism and Masonry
I begin with a particularly revealing episodethe panic that broke out in some quarters at the end of the eighteenth century over the allegedly subversive activities of the Bavarian Illuminati. This panic was a part of the general reaction to the French Revolution. In the United States it was heightened by the response of certain men, mostly in New England and among the established clergy, to the rise of Jeffersonian democracy. Illuminism had been started in 1776 by Adam Weishaupt, a professor of law at the University of Ingolstadt. Its teachings today seem to be no more than another version of Enlightenment rationalism, spiced with the anticlerical atmosphere of eighteenth-century Bavaria. It was a somewhat naïve and utopian movement which aspired ultimately to bring the human race under the rules of reason. Its humanitarian rationalism appears to have acquired a fairly wide influence in Masonic lodges.
Americans first learned of Illumism in 1797, from a volume published in Edinburgh (later reprinted in New York) under the title, Proofs of a Conspiracy Against All the Religions and Governments of Europe, Carried on in the Secret Meetings of Free Masons, Illuminati, and Reading Societies. Its author was a well-known Scottish scientist, John Robison, who had himself been a somewhat casual adherent of Masonry in Britain, but whose imagination had been inflamed by what he considered to be the far less innocent Masonic movement on the Continent. Robison seems to have made his work as factual as he could, but when he came to estimating the moral character and the political influence of Illuminism, he made the characteristic paranoid leap into fantasy. The association, he thought, was formed for the express purpose of rooting out all religious establishments, and overturning all the existing governments of europe. It had become one great and wicked project fermenting and working all over Europe. And to it he attributed a central role in bringing about the French Revolution. He saw it as a libertine, anti-Christian movement, given to the corruption of women, the cultivation of sensual pleasures, and the violation of property rights. Its members had plans for making a tea that caused abortiona secret substance that blinds or kills when spurted in the face, and a device that sounds like a stench bomba method for filling a bedchamber with pestilential vapours.
These notions were quick to make themselves felt in America. In May 1798, a minister of the Massachusetts Congregational establishment in Boston, Jedidiah Morse, delivered a timely sermon to the young country, which was then sharply divided between Jeffersonians and Federalists, Francophiles and Anglomen. Having read Robison, Morse was convinced of a Jacobinical plot touched off by Illuminism, and that the country should be rallied to defend itself. His warnings were heeded throughout New England wherever Federalists brooded about the rising tide of religious infidelity or Jeffersonian democracy. Timothy Dwight, the president of Yale, followed Morses sermon with a Fourth-of-July discourse on The Duty of Americans in the Present Crisis, in which he held forth against the Antichrist in his own glowing rhetoric. Soon the pulpits of New England were ringing with denunciations of the Illuminati, as though the country were swarming with them.
The anti-Masonic movement of the late 1820s and the 1830s took up and extended the obsession with conspiracy. At first, this movement may seem to be no more than an extension or repetition of the anti-Masonic theme sounded in the outcry against the Bavarian Illuminati. But whereas the panic of the 1790s was confined mainly to New England and linked to an ultraconservative point of view, the later anti-Masonic movement affected many parts of the northern United States, and was intimately linked with popular democracy and rural egalitarianism. Although anti-Masonry happened to be anti-Jacksonian (Jackson was a Mason), it manifested the same animus against the closure of opportunity for the common man and against aristocratic institutions that one finds in the Jacksonian crusade against the Bank of the United States.
The anti-Masonic movement was a product not merely of natural enthusiasm but also of the vicissitudes of party politics. It was joined and used by a great many men who did not fully share its original anti-Masonic feelings. It attracted the support of several reputable statement who had only mild sympathy with its fundamental bias, but who as politicians could not afford to ignore it. Still, it was a folk movement of considerable power, and the rural enthusiasts who provided its real impetus believed in it wholeheartedly.
As a secret society, Masonry was considered to be a standing conspiracy against republican government. It was held to be particularly liable to treasonfor example, Aaron Burrs famous conspiracy was alleged to have been conducted by Masons. Masonry was accused of constituting a separate system of loyalty, a separate imperium within the framework of federal and state governments, which was inconsistent with loyalty to them. Quite plausibly it was argued that the Masons had set up a jurisdiction of their own, with their own obligations and punishments, liable to enforcement even by the penalty of death. So basic was the conflict felt to be between secrecy and democracy that other, more innocent societies such as Phi Beta Kappa came under attack.
Since Masons were pledged to come to each others aid under circumstances of distress, and to extend fraternal indulgence at all times, is was held that the order nullified the enforcement of regular law. Masonic constables, sheriffs, juries, and judges must all be in league with Masonic criminals and fugitives. The press was believed to have been so muzzled by Masonic editors and proprietors that news of Masonic malfeasance could be suppressed. At a moment when almost every alleged citadel of privilege in America was under democratic assault, Masonry was attacked as a fraternity of the privileged, closing business opportunities and nearly monopolizing political offices.
Certain elements of truth and reality there may have been in these views of Masonry. What must be emphasized here, however, is the apocalyptic and absolutistic framework in which this hostility was commonly expressed. Anti-Masons were not content simply to say that secret societies were rather a bad idea. The author of the standard exposition of anti-Masonry declared that Freemasonry was not only the most abominable but also the most dangerous institution that ever was imposed on man. It may truly be said to be hells master piece.
The Jesuit Threat
Fear of a Masonic plot had hardly been quieted when the rumors arose of a Catholic plot against American values. One meets here again the same frame of mind, but a different villain. The anti-Catholic movement converged with a growing nativism, and while they were not identical, together they cut such a wide swath in American life that they were bound to embrace many moderates to whom the paranoid style, in its full glory, did not appeal. Moreover, we need not dismiss out of hand as totally parochial or mean-spirited the desire of Yankee Americans to maintain an ethnically and religiously homogeneous society nor the particular Protestant commitments to individualism and freedom that were brought into play. But the movement had a large paranoid infusion, and the most influential anti-Catholic militants certainly had a strong affinity for the paranoid style.
Two books which appeared in 1835 described the new danger to the ?American way of life and may be taken as expressions of the anti-Catholic mentality. One, Foreign Conspiracies against the Liberties of the United States, was from the hand of the celebrated painter and inventor of the telegraph, S.F.B. Morse. A conspiracy exists, Morse proclaimed , and its plans are already in operation we are attacked in a vulnerable quarter which cannot be defended by our ships, our forts, or our armies. The main source of the conspiracy Morse found in Metternichs government: Austria is now acting in this country. She has devised a grand scheme. She has organized a great plan for doing something here. She has her Jesuit missionaries traveling through the land; she has supplied them with money, and has furnished a fountain for a regular supply. Were the plot successful, Morse said, some scion of the House of Hapsburg would soon be installed as Emperor of the United States.
It is an ascertained fact, wrote another Protestant militant,
that Jesuits are prowling about all parts of the United States in every possible disguise, expressly to ascertain the advantageous situations and modes to disseminate Popery. A minister of the Gospel from Ohio has informed us that he discovered one carrying on his devices in his congregation; and he says that the western country swarms with them under the name of puppet show men, dancing masters, music teachers, peddlers of images and ornaments, barrel organ players, and similar practitioners.
Lyman Beecher, the elder of a famous family and the father of Harriet Beecher Stowe, wrote in the same year his Plea for the West, in which he considered the possibility that the Christian millennium might come in the American states. Everything depended, in his judgment, upon what influences dominated the great West, where the future of the country lay. There Protestantism was engaged in a life-or-death struggle with Catholicism. Whatever we do, it must be done quickly. A great tide of immigration, hostile to free institutions, was sweeping in upon the country, subsidized and sent by the potentates of Europe, multiplying tumult and violence, filling jails, crowding poorhouses, quadrupling taxation, and sending increasing thousands of voters to lay their inexperienced hand upon the helm of our power.
If not, you don't know whereof you speak.
The problem with the St. Louis Jesuits and their emulators is that the music they produce is quite bad and serves to banalize the whole Mass. Whereas the traditional music of the Church, plainchant and polyphony, is exquisite and serves to add beauty to the rest of the Mass.
I vote for the beauty. But there are also many English hymns that fall into that category.
Lovely article on one of the worst offenders in the "crappy tree hugger" music category...
Apart from the artistic quality of the music of the St. Louis Jesuits (which is not good), one of its worst attributes is that it is not singable. Many of the songs are simply too difficult for the average person to sing. In fact, according to Thomas Day, who wrote the book, Why Catholics Can't Sing, much of today's liturgical music is actually written for small groups and soloists, not for congregations. After Vatican II, liturgists couldn't wait to dump Gregorian chant, claiming that it limited the participation of the faithful in the liturgy. (They never proved this.) Ironically, the music that has replaced the chant has not increased congregational singing either.
It appears they have been on an ego trip for many years. Time to pray for humility for this group and the Church
Round about way of saying they chose (for all those years) to "interpret" the GIRM thusly, "We are allowed to ignore the rubrics, and therefore the GIRM."
They were trying to be kind. "Lounge-lizard" has the wrong kind of ring to it.
No pun intended, I'm sure ;-)
Good to see you back in the forum. You have been missed.
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I can't wait for the History Channel to base a show on it.