Sunday, 9 November 2014

Playing CD’s in The Liturgy

The purpose of the renewed liturgy was, we are told, to ensure participation by the people. This often disappears at funerals and weddings when hymns are omitted in favour of CD's.

People ask for CD’s to be played at weddings so they “can have our special song” or at funerals because “it’s the one mum wanted played”. Whether mum wanted it or not, recorded music in the liturgy is a no-no, and for two good reasons:
Playing CD’s is out of keeping with the nature of the liturgy as the living worship of God
Playing of CD’s is out of synch with active participation, being a ‘listening moment’.

Unfortunately a number of parishes engage in the playing of CD’s, and as such, rather than sung prayer in ‘Help Lord the souls that thou has made’ we end up with “I did it My Way” (when we should be doping it God’s way); or see an exaltation of the deceased as ‘The Wind beneath My Wings’ (when it is the Holy Spirit who raises us on eagles wings); or we provide a jolly send-off to ‘Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye’ (though we cannot be sure if the deceased is off to eternal peace or perdition).  The most recent request I had was for Eva Cassidy’s version of “Fields of Gold”, which, while gentle and meditative in mood, includes some very sensual, impure lyrics:

So she took her love for to gaze awhile upon the fields of barley
In his arms she fell as her hair came down among the fields of gold
Feel her body rise when you kiss her mouth, among the fields of gold

I allow CD’s willingly before and after a Service at a Crematorium, but I have never allowed them in funeral or wedding Masses in Church because of the reasons given above. I usually receive acceptance of my position when I give the explanation, “we don’t sing pop songs in Church just as we don’t sing hymns in the club afterwards”.  The logic of this is inescapable to folk, who on the whole accept it. I have had one or two take angry exceptions taken, and always because “The Catholic Church in the next village plays CD’s”.  Really? Do they care nothing for participation?
Do they not understand the nature of all liturgy as a living act of worship?
Do they understand that by allowing DC’s of Judy Collins singing “Amazing Grace” they admit the principle which allows for “My Way” to be played?
Do they understand that every time play the CD’s they do so to please the people (and thereby prove that the New Form of Mass is geared towards people-pleasing rather than worship of God)?
Not only that, but those who illicitly play CD’s unjustly place their faithful brother priests in a situation of disabuse by the angry and hurt –though the “CD’ers” are probably those who go on about social justice.
Finally, on a civil law note, one has to ask if they have a Public Broadcasting License, which I suspect they don’t.

Why is it so hard for priests to simply omit CD’s in Church? Because they don’t want to get into conflict with folk at a sensitive time; they find it easier to make a worship event a people-pleasing event. Living worship and active participation are suddenly –and conveniently- forgotten. 

NB. Beware, Modernisers, if you are going to speak of ‘active listening’ or ‘active remembering’ as a reason for allowing CD’s, because ‘active listening’ is the very thing you have decried for years in the Extraordinary Form where you have labelled it “the people not saying anything”. You can’t have it both ways. Get rid of the CD’s, and get back to worship of God and intercession for the dead. 


  1. One pp I know plays a CD of 'liturgical' muzak during the distribution of Holy Communion at Sunday Mass. Another, now retired, used to press the button for the clapping Gloria. One summer Sunday he forgot to switch off and the CD segued into "I wish you a Merry Christmas". Neither can/could abide silence. I avoid both parishes.

    1. Thank you.
      These instances of 'lack of control over the system used' add to the problems I mention of demolishing active participation and live worship.
      God Bless.

  2. Sad to say Father Gary, you are so right. What is even more concerning is that at many Masses for children these CDs are put on leading the children (our future Catholic adults) under the impression that this is the norm.

  3. I once went to a well-known church (which had better be nameless) for a Saturday evening Mass intending to spend some time in quiet before the Mass started. When the priest saw my wife and I come in (nobody else had yet arrived) he put on a CD of some soupy religiose music and seemed most offended when I went up to him and asked him to turn it off as we just wanted to be quiet. The Mass that followed was a total travesty that I could hardly believe - in effect a monologue from the priest with odd bits of the Mass thrown in. I could not bear any more of his drivel and we left after half an hour when he still had not reached the Gospel. Yes, by all means let's try to get rid of CDs playing in church, but sadly this is not the least horror one may have to endure.

    1. Thank you, Savonarola.
      I know where you are coming from with the need for quiet time before (and after) Mass. It is worse when we get these things played during the mass itself.
      God Bless.

  4. Regarding the need for quiet time before and after Mass for both preparation and thanksgiving I cannot help noticing the difference between the congregations at the NO and the TLM Masses on Sunday. Same church, same celebrant but what a difference !

    There is constant chatter before the NO making prayer impossible and I have found that the only way to make ones thanksgiving after Mass is to kneel during the last hymn, as the chatter starts as soon as it is over.

    Attending the TLM there is silence both before and after. In fact one day as I reached the porch a lady asked me what was next there. Puzzled I queried her question and she said that people were still kneeling so she thought there was another service following. I replied that no there nothing on after Mass and that they were making their thanksgiving. She expressed her surprise and I can only presume that she was used to everyone leaving promptly once the Priest had left.

    I am extremely lucky in that I have a choice on Sundays between a very reverent Novus Ordo with sung Latin Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei (not a puppet or clown in sight!) and a TLM Low Mass. The icing on the cake would be silence before and after the NO Mass but I suppose we can't have everything!

    I was interested to read your comments on CDs. I have not experienced them being used at Mass although I have come across CDs being played during the day in churches in France when I have entered for a quiet time before the Blessed Sacrament only to find the 'religious' musak all pervading. Genty's experience with 'I wish you a Merry Christmas' in summer did make me laugh.

    1. Thank you, Pelerin.
      I could probably cope with CD music (not singing) outside the liturgy as quiet, background music for visits to the Church, but playing them in the liturgy is quite common here.
      God Bless

  5. Gregorian chat is to be given pride of place at mass. Sadly there are so few who do gregorian chant that its almost impossible to do. I think playing a cd of gregorian chant before mass would serve two purposes 1. Direct the our attention to christ as a preperation of the beauty of mass especially at the chatty time prior to the novus ordo and 2. Bring back gregorian chant into the parishes. You never know it might even get the stragglers in before mass starts


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