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Sacred Music and Your Parish
CatholicExchange.com ^ | Trent Beattie

Posted on 02/01/2010 3:36:39 PM PST by Salvation

Sacred Music and Your Parish

February 1st, 2010 by Trent Beattie

One can walk into nearly any parish today and hear almost any type of music, from Gregorian chant to folk music to heavy metal.  While most parishes offer one type of music within a given Mass, some parishes even provide a musical contrast within the same one.  I actually attended a funeral Mass in which an electric guitar was used alternately with a harp.  Figure that one out if you can.

Unusual combinations aside, isn’t it a good thing to have something different for everyone?  The old people can listen to chant, the middle-aged people can listen to folk music, and the young people can listen to heavy metal.  Everyone gets to be around their favorite music, which is, after all, a large part of what the Mass is all about: personal preferences and self-expression.  Right?

Wrong.

Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Ratzinger, stated in The Spirit of the Liturgy that "Not every kind of music can have a place in Christian worship."  Although individuals can be naturally drawn to certain types of music, sacred music–which is meant specifically for the liturgy — is not derived from natural tendencies or preferences.  Sacred music, like the rest of the liturgy, is not about mere self-expression; it is about receiving and participating in what has been passed down to us, such as Gregorian chant.

Gregorian chant — named after Pope St. Gregory the Great (590-604) — is sacred music of the highest order.  In the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium , we are told that

The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services (Art. 116).

Why does Gregorian chant occupy such a central role in the liturgy?  Pope St. Pius X (1903-1914) explains in his 1903 instruction Tra le Sollecitudini that

Sacred music should…possess, in the highest degree, the qualities proper to the liturgy, and in particular sanctity and goodness of form, which will spontaneously produce the final quality of universality (No. 2).

The saintly Pontiff goes on to state in the same document that

These qualities [of sanctity, goodness of form, and universality] are to be found, in the highest degree, in Gregorian Chant, which is consequently the Chant proper to the Roman Church, the only chant she has inherited from the ancient Fathers, which she has jealously guarded for centuries in her liturgical codices, which she directly proposes to the faithful as her own, which she prescribes exclusively for some parts of the liturgy… (No.3).

While other types of sacred music (such as polyphony) may be admitted to the liturgy (SC Art 116), Gregorian chant is, according to Pope St. Pius X, "the supreme model for sacred music" (TS No. 3) because of its sanctity, goodness of form, and universality.  It has a simplicity, sobriety, and resonance that manifest the beauty of the liturgical action.

The next time you’re at Mass, ask yourself how the music you’re hearing measures up to this supreme model.  In many parishes, the goal seems to be the avoidance of this supreme model, rather than the approach toward it.  In fact, many Catholics would be surprised to learn that Church authorities have taught anything at all on sacred music, and would probably be even more surprised to learn that specific musical instruments have been named, whether for endorsement or for exclusion.

One of the instruments that has been mentioned is the pipe organ, which can enhance the beauty of Gregorian chant.  According to the Council Fathers, the pipe organ "is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church’s ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man’s mind to God and to higher things." (SC Art. 120).  The pipe organ, however, is meant to accompany the singing, not to overpower it.

This "non-overpowering rule" is applicable to any other instruments which might be lawfully admitted into the liturgy, pending the approval of rightful authority (SC Art. 120).  It is also pointed out that

This [admittance of other instruments] may be done, however, only on condition that the instruments are suitable, or can be made suitable, for sacred use, accord with the dignity of the temple, and truly contribute to the edification of the faithful (SC Art.120).

Can drums, guitars, and pianos be made suitable for sacred use?  Do they accord with the dignity of the temple?  Do they contribute to the edification of the faithful?  Before these questions are answered, it should be pointed out that while many types of music are inherently good, they are not meant specifically for the Mass.  Piano music, for example, can be great entertainment at a social function–but the Mass is not a mere social function, it is the Sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

With this in mind, it is interesting to note that Pope St. Pius X actually banned pianos and drums from the Mass, stating that "The employment of the piano is forbidden in church, as is…that of noisy…instruments such as drums…" (TS No. 19).  We can be fairly certain that, had guitars made their way into the liturgy by 1903, our Holy Father would have banned them as well.

This is not to say that such music is inherently bad, but that it is not meant specifically for the liturgy.  There is a type of music which, although not appropriate for the liturgy and therefore not called "sacred," is used to teach the Faith and is therefore called "religious".  Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) said that

We must also hold in honor that music which is not primarily a part of the sacred liturgy, but which by its power and purpose greatly aids religion. This music is therefore rightly called religious music. The Church has possessed such music from the beginning and it has developed happily under the Church’s auspices. As experience shows, it can exercise great and salutary force and power on the souls of the faithful…when it is used…during non-liturgical services and ceremonies… (Musicae Sacrae No. 36)

Although he does not give specific examples, perhaps Silent Night or We Three Kings of Orient Are — sung in the vernacular–would be examples of such songs which, according to the Pope,

… bring pure and chaste joy to young people and adults during times of recreation …They bring pious joy, sweet consolation and spiritual progress to Christian families themselves. Hence these popular religious hymns are of great help to the Catholic apostolate and should be carefully cultivated and promoted (MS No. 37).

We are told that popular religious hymns should be promoted–but not in the liturgy.  Everything good has its place, but the Mass is not the place for everything good.

There is no better way to sum it up than with the words of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, from his 2007 encyclical Sacramentum Caritatis :

Certainly as far as the liturgy is concerned, we cannot say that one song is as good as another. Generic improvisation or the introduction of musical genres which fail to respect the meaning of the liturgy should be avoided. As an element of the liturgy, song should be well integrated into the overall celebration. Consequently everything–texts, music, execution–ought to correspond to the meaning of the mystery being celebrated, the structure of the rite and the liturgical seasons. Finally, while respecting various styles and different and highly praiseworthy traditions, I desire… that Gregorian chant be suitably esteemed and employed as the chant proper to the Roman liturgy …(No. 42).

We have the clear instructions, now we need more people to read them and carry them out.  St. Cecilia, Patroness of Musicians, pray with us that this will happen, for the glory of God and the sanctification of all.

(For more information on sacred music, read Papal Legislation on Sacred Music . Help support Catholic Exchange buy getting Papal Legislation on Sacred Music and The Spirit of the Liturgy from our online store.)

 
Trent Beattie lives in Seattle, Washington and is the author of a book about scrupulosity, and of a book about Vatican II and the Mass, both forthcoming. He is also the editor of a book of meditations from Saint Alphonsus Liguori, also forthcoming. Two books already in print that include helpful information for the scrupulous are Achieving Peace of Heart by Fr. Narciso Irala and Pardon & Peace by Fr. Alfred Wilson, both from Roman Catholic Books: www.booksforcatholics.com


TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; History; Theology
KEYWORDS: catholic; catholiclist; churchmusic; gregorianchant; hymns; liturgicalmusic; liturgy; mass; music; sacredmusic

**Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Ratzinger, stated in The Spirit of the Liturgy that "Not every kind of music can have a place in Christian worship."  Although individuals can be naturally drawn to certain types of  music, sacred music–which is meant specifically for the liturgy — is not derived from natural tendencies or preferences.  Sacred music, like the rest of the liturgy, is not about mere self-expression; it is about receiving and participating in what has been passed down to us, such as Gregorian chant.**


1 posted on 02/01/2010 3:36:41 PM PST by Salvation
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To: nickcarraway; Lady In Blue; NYer; ELS; Pyro7480; livius; Catholicguy; RobbyS; markomalley; ...
Litrugy Ping!

Catholic Discussion Ping!

Please notify me via FReepmail if you would like to be added to or taken off the Catholic Discussion Ping List.

2 posted on 02/01/2010 3:38:26 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation

Oops

Liturgy Ping!


3 posted on 02/01/2010 3:51:19 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation

My musical tastes are not “old and stodgy” - my sometime references to metal and punk lyrics - but in a church, nothing newer than Fanny Crosby. Go back to Wesley, Isaac Watts, or J.S. Bach.


4 posted on 02/01/2010 3:53:25 PM PST by Fred Hayek (From this point forward the Democratic Party will be referred to as the Communist Party)
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To: Salvation

Is anyone else besides me considering sending this to my pastor and Music Director?


5 posted on 02/01/2010 3:57:58 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Fred Hayek

Why is it that you say Gregorian Chant is old and stodgy. Very inspiriting in my judgment.


6 posted on 02/01/2010 3:58:50 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation
At a church we used to attend, the music director once began Mass by asking the congregation to walk about the perimeter of the church with our arms in the air as she played some sort of folk tune about freedom on the organ (but you could tell she wished it a was a piano). I, along with many others, remained kneeling while several dozen participants hopped to it. Granted they seemed embarrased by the display but nevertheless they cowed to the "liturgy committee" requesting their participation.

That was the beginning of the end of our involvment with that church.

7 posted on 02/01/2010 4:03:25 PM PST by workerbee (Yes, I hate Obama because of his color: RED!)
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To: workerbee

But did not the Psalms of the Bible make references to the use of intrauments in temple worship?

As long as it brings glory to God, I am happy be it chant, gospel, or contempary Christian.


8 posted on 02/01/2010 4:34:45 PM PST by Biggirl (Justice Alito Said It As He Called It "You Lie"!=^..^==^..^==^..^==^..^==^..^=)
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To: Salvation

Please see post number 8.


9 posted on 02/01/2010 4:35:42 PM PST by Biggirl (Justice Alito Said It As He Called It "You Lie"!=^..^==^..^==^..^==^..^==^..^=)
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To: Biggirl

>>As long as it brings glory to God, I am happy be it chant, gospel, or contempary Christian.<<

Not me.
I don’t want to hear guitars, and Wahwahs. That’s why I attend the parish I do. My girls are in the Latin choir and sing at our Latin NO.

However, I would NEVER begrudge anyone the music he/she likes. Want a LifeTeen concert mass? Cool! As long as I don’t have to go and my kind of music is offered at the parish across town.


10 posted on 02/01/2010 4:39:15 PM PST by netmilsmom (I am Ilk)
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To: Biggirl
I guess ya had to be there.

;-)

I'm 42 and yes, some of it is about personal preference, or what you grew up with, or what have you. And yes, I actually do like some (some) of the stuff that, I suppose, many Catholics would decry. But honestly, I think most of the music performed in church these days is not about bringing glory to God but about the performers having an audience. That's my beef.

11 posted on 02/01/2010 4:45:58 PM PST by workerbee (Yes, I hate Obama because of his color: RED!)
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To: workerbee

I don’t blame you for stopping your attendance at that church.


12 posted on 02/01/2010 4:49:15 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: workerbee

**I think most of the music performed in church these days is not about bringing glory to God but about the performers having an audience. That’s my beef.**

Hammer hits nail! Good post!


13 posted on 02/01/2010 4:51:12 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: workerbee

Was never at your parish though, just an observation.


14 posted on 02/01/2010 4:56:21 PM PST by Biggirl (Justice Alito Said It As He Called It "You Lie"!=^..^==^..^==^..^==^..^==^..^=)
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To: Salvation

You bet, Salvation! But I know what diocese you’re in! Don’t ya think the Archbishop needs a copy too?

Oregon Catholic Press is responsible for polluting countless parishes with music or lyrics that are artistically junk, morally degrading, and sometimes heretical.


15 posted on 02/01/2010 5:15:02 PM PST by baa39
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To: workerbee

If there’s always a groupie-like collection of folks who wait until after the last note of the recessional sounds so they can “clap for the musicians” they your concerns are justified.

Unfortunately, many priests seem to have some fear of their duty to properly instruct their music directors. This article is only one of many references and church documents that could be required reading before anyone enters a choir loft, or more likely, sets up microphones right next to the altar.


16 posted on 02/01/2010 5:22:08 PM PST by baa39
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To: baa39

Are you sending it or am I? LOL! Haven’t we traveled this route before?


17 posted on 02/01/2010 5:28:30 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation

LOL! Hey, I’m not slick and savvy enough to get past Bishop Tully, er, um, I mean Ms. Tully.


18 posted on 02/01/2010 5:39:23 PM PST by baa39
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To: Salvation

Thanks for the ping!

You ain’t heard nuffin’ until you’ve heard the ukelele played at mass. It sounded like a bad Italian movie. God bless that good hearted woman who played it, but I was not sorry to see the ‘ukelele masses’ end!


19 posted on 02/01/2010 6:25:16 PM PST by sneakers
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To: Salvation

Well-stated arguments here.

I love chant.

Last month, while visiting one of my sons, I attended a Mass at a nearby church. It is a beautiful old church, and I have attended Mass there a few times. This was the first time I had gone to the Sunday 11.30 Mass, however, and it will be my last for that particular hour.

I got there about 20 minutes early, and I was puzzled over why there were so many people in the sacristy. When the reason for their presence there became apparent, I was not a happy camper. Fourteen people were involved in providing the music for this Mass — 7 electric guitars, a drum kit, a fiddle, a soundman, and vocalists.

The clincher was a very uptempo rendition of “Come, Holy Ghost” in English. The only piece I was familiar with, and they had to do that to it!

This was, however, better than my experience with yet another parish in the area. It was a disgraceful liturgy. For example, one of the songs there was entitled “Shine, Jesus, Shine”, and it was as bad as it sounds.


20 posted on 02/01/2010 6:50:07 PM PST by Bigg Red (Palin/Hunter 2012 -- Bolton their Secretary of State)
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To: workerbee

I think most of the music performed in church these days is not about bringing glory to God but about the performers having an audience. That’s my beef.

&&
Exactly. Years ago, I was in a parish for a while, where the priests were very liberal, which is why I found a new one. But, before I left there, I was subjected to the spectacle of the priest actually leading applause, for the lone singer at this particular Mass — during the Mass!


21 posted on 02/01/2010 6:57:01 PM PST by Bigg Red (Palin/Hunter 2012 -- Bolton their Secretary of State)
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To: Salvation; All

Generally I like music — the more traditional, the better. However, you have to admit that a well-played guitar is better than a poorly played organ. I’ve heard both at church.

But, I don’t like to see/hear the cantor carrying on like a nightclub singer. And I was jarred to see guitars and bongo drums being played as their owners skipped down the aisle singing “I’ll eat your strawberries and drink your sweet wine.” That was at Newman Club at UC Berkeley, so consider the source.

But those who are busy banning music err too. At the time I got married, the beautiful Ave Maria was not allowed to be sung at a wedding ceremony. That stricture seems to have been forgotten these days, and I am glad.


22 posted on 02/01/2010 7:01:05 PM PST by afraidfortherepublic
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To: Salvation

Yes, I have several Music Directors I am thinking of sending it to.


23 posted on 02/01/2010 8:38:57 PM PST by bboop (We don't need no stinkin' VAT)
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To: netmilsmom

Not me. As a musician, I much prefer the early Mass, with some chant and NO other music. I have sat through too many Protestant services and Catholic Masses that were TORTURE. ‘Banal’ is the word that comes to mind. And I had such an urge to cry out “EVERY measure has to have the same number of beats!”

hahaha. Gripe and moan, first half of the service; repent and ‘pray for those you hate’, second half of the service. It made for a long bit of penance, week after week.


24 posted on 02/01/2010 8:43:03 PM PST by bboop (We don't need no stinkin' VAT)
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To: baa39

Oregon Catholic Press. When WILL they be run out of town? And why oh why does every parish have to have their books? The stuff was bad in the early 80s or whenever it came out. Now it is OLD and bad.


25 posted on 02/01/2010 8:44:30 PM PST by bboop (We don't need no stinkin' VAT)
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To: bboop

Keep calling OCP and requesting traditional songs.

I hate most of their music, but they are putting more and more traditional music in the hymnals.

The thing I hate about their music is that it’s “me” centered instead of the traditional Catholic hymns that are “God” centered.

I won’t sing some of them. I just bow my head, fold my hands in front of me and pray prayers of reparation with my eyes closed. (Wish I could shut my ears too......LOL!)


26 posted on 02/01/2010 9:51:11 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation
Last year, I attended a Latin mass, which included the Gregorian chant and JS Bach organ music. It was the most inspiring, uplifting service I have ever attended.

At my regular church, we have a young music director. Surprisingly, he is a very able classical organist. His playing is superb. I prefer him over the musical director that he replaced, who tended to veer off into guitars, drums and trombones whenever the fancy struck him...

27 posted on 02/02/2010 1:39:50 AM PST by MaggieCarta (We're all Detroiters, now.)
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To: Salvation
I just bow my head, fold my hands in front of me and pray prayers of reparation with my eyes closed. (Wish I could shut my ears too......LOL!)

Giggle. You reminded me of William F. Buckley's thoughts on the "new Mass":

...Meanwhile, I am practicing Yoga, so that, at church on Sundays, I can develop the power to tune out everything I hear, while attempting, athwart the general calisthenics, to commune with my Maker, and ask Him first to forgive me my own sins, and implore him, second, not to forgive the people who ruined the Mass.

PS: The St Louis Catholic hedges when attributing this to WFB, Jr., but I remember the quote reprinted in NR several years ago. It is from Mr. Buckley.

28 posted on 02/02/2010 1:52:28 AM PST by MaggieCarta (We're all Detroiters, now.)
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To: Salvation
I actually attended a funeral Mass in which an electric guitar was used alternately with a harp. Figure that one out if you can.

The deceased had eclectic tastes. So do I, but my survivors can acknowledge them at the memorial bash, rather than at the funeral.

29 posted on 02/02/2010 3:56:19 AM PST by Tax-chick (Thou hast well drunken, man - who's the fool now?)
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To: Salvation

I should have said “what some would consider old and stodgy”. The hymn writers I listed are no later than late 19th century. Rock, new age folky (especially that Marty Whathisname who has that newagey stuff in Catholic hymnals), pop, etc, has no place in a worship service. JS Bach, or Gregorian chants (especially during Vespers) is fitting. It was nice to see that Bill Buckley insisted on Bach for his funeral.


30 posted on 02/02/2010 6:03:58 AM PST by Fred Hayek (From this point forward the Democratic Party will be referred to as the Communist Party)
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To: Salvation

Handel’s music was originally considered “too modern” for church services. I admit I do not like most of the music played at our church, but I find it hard to completely reject sacred music simply because it was played on a piano or a guitar.


31 posted on 02/02/2010 6:26:38 AM PST by Military family member (GO Colts!!)
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To: Salvation

I live right outside of New Orleans, so the past few weeks, we have been “treated” to the rousing spritual, “when the Saints Go Marching In” at Mass. I know, technically, it is a spiritual, but it is also the cheer song for the New Orleans Saints, and the people in Church really get into it by clapping their hands and wriggling to the beat. IMO, it belongs in a Baptist gospel Church rather than a Roman Catholic Church. But I’m sure some will disagree, especially New Orleans Saints fans.


32 posted on 02/02/2010 7:24:08 AM PST by murron (Proud Mom of a Marine Vet)
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To: Fred Hayek

MARTY HAUTGEN! The first runner up in the awful music category after Marty is a Bernadette something.

I always turn to the hymns while we are hearing the announcements before mass. My first rule is that if it is dated 1975 or later, I am positive it is going to require singing through clenched teeth.

I think our pastor likes Marty because we seem to have Marty in frequent rotation. I think those hymns came out when Monsignor was in seminary, and he has a fondness for them that they do not deserve.

Our music director can play beautiful classical pieces on the organ. Yet week after week we get Marty Hautgen with piano accompaniment. It’s very distressing.

I love our priest, who is very orthodox and gives intelligent homilies with historical background. We currently have 9 seminarians, and we are going to have an group of Franciscan, habited sisters move into the old convent this summer, and Monsignor took the initiative in getting that started. We have a Chapel of Perpetual Adoration that is manned 24/7. We have a school which is teaching kids the faith along with their studies.

So, I keep my mouth shut about the music. I figure it is one of those suffering things I have to endure, and am grateful for all of the good things we have at our church.

Besides, when I was a Methodist we had a minister who was an excellent musician, and who promoted the use of all of the great hymns. The only problem was that he also believed Jesus had girlfriends.


33 posted on 02/02/2010 2:33:48 PM PST by Miss Marple
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To: Miss Marple
MARTY HAUTGEN! The first runner up in the awful music category after Marty is a Bernadette something.

Bernadette Farrell. Other contenders for the honour iclude luminaries as David Haas, Michael Joncas, Donna Pena, and the egregious Carey Landry.

May I recommend the Adoremus Hymnal and the St Michael Hymnal as antidotes?

34 posted on 02/02/2010 2:41:26 PM PST by ArrogantBustard (Western Civilization is Aborting, Buggering, and Contracepting itself out of existence.)
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To: Miss Marple
The only problem was that he also believed Jesus had girlfriends.

Could be worse. I met a couple of folks, once, who insisted Jesus had at least one BOYfriend.

35 posted on 02/02/2010 2:42:58 PM PST by ArrogantBustard (Western Civilization is Aborting, Buggering, and Contracepting itself out of existence.)
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To: Salvation

music is cultural...here in the Philippines, we sing “easy listening” style songs in Tagalog.

Personally, I hate Gregorian chant.

The problem with modern mass music is that it’s bad music, not that it is modern.


36 posted on 02/02/2010 11:49:16 PM PST by LadyDoc (liberals only love politically correct poor people)
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