A Musician's Lament

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As much as I mistrust CWN normally I really appreciated reading Michael Obash's description of the state of Catholic Church Music. (Thanks, RC, for the link). I heard a fuller description this yesterday on the ride down to Lafayette for the recording. Michael and I were both cantors on the recording, and he stands next to me, on my left, in the picture of the schola.

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Father Keyes:

I was wondering about the comment you made in passing about "mistrusting CWN." I think it's a great source of Catholic news; it's far better than CNS (Catholic News Service). Could you explain why you do not trust CWN? Thanks.

Peace, Fr Jeff.

Your friend has a story many church musicians can relate to. I'm not sure what good it does to bemoan the successes -- undeserved or otherwise -- of others. I would hope your friend sees humself as more than just a parish musician. He is also a Christian (I presume a Catholic) and therefore on a journey where he will not find pure satisfaction in this life.

I've worked for pastors and parishioners for sixteen years. I don't always get my way, even when my way is the best way. But at at some point, in order to thrive (or even survive), I have to set aside my ego and my desires and decide to go it on faith. Faith informs me that I might not have all the answers, and that God can work fruitfully in the lunacy of others. I would hope that your friend finds his Shangri-La, as I would hope we all do. But I'm not sure what his semi-autobiographical piece is meant to accomplish. The strange thing is that God can work easily through musical dreck to break through to us. If I don't like a song I'm obligated to play, I decide to make it better. And if I'm given a good start with a Scripture-based text, all the better.

With apologies to Rush Limbaugh, but ditto, ditto, ditto


I made two trips to Rome last year and I spent the entire summer in Rome attending many events on which they reported. At the every least they were reporting from another universe.

Case in point, a canonization, four new saints, two Italian, two Polish. The vast majority of the huge crowd was obviously Italian, although there were wany there from Africa and America too, as the community founded by one of the saints is in many countries. There was a significant portion of the crowd that was Polish, about equal to the large number of Africans. About two thirds of the crowd was seen wearing red, judging from the pictures taken of the square from overhead. This was a color associated with one of the Italian saints.

So how did CWN report it? They reported on a huge group of Polish Pilgrims coming to greet the Pope on his birthday. Not one word about the new saints or anything the Pope said at the event, or any of the related events for the four saints,

So, I cannot pick up their magazine without thinking, "what are they missing or not reporting on?"

Even Michael's essay is one-sided and a very limited perspective on the state of Catholic Church Music. The pastors obviously saw a potential in Micheel when they hired him. I doubt that CWN sees a need to offer their perspective.

Also the managing editor of CWN was quite rude when I complained about their coverage. He basically said that other perspectives did not matter.

When CWN comes up in conversation I refer to it as "Only Our Small Part of The Catholic World News."

I have to read several news sources and do not limit myself to one source. I refuse to subscribe to a Catholic World news that states they they have right to limit the breadth of their coverage of the Vatican. Zenit, Vatican News, VIS and Osservatore Romano are much better sources.

My hope for Michael is: that he finds a source of spiritual nourishment and refreshment apart from liturgy that makes it possible for him to let go of some of the frustration and resentment his piece seems to reflect. It's got to be something besides Sunday liturgy; ironically, this is a situation that many of the people he takes shots at also share with him, albeit for different reasons.

My hope for us all is: we set aside our flamethrowers for a while. Selectively quoting from documents, dismissing the parts of the US bishops' documents we don't like, wrestling over who has the correct interpretation of Vatican II as if there were one right reading, attributing motives to people rather than confining ourselves to actions--none of these are likely to serve either the body of Christ or the individual members of that body.

Sometimes I think that the church in the US and in many other places is in a similar position to countries like Yugoslavia--held static by the decrees of Trent for 400 years and then set free is part of how I understand the chaotic times in which we live. Had we been able to gradually adapt to the changing circumstances rather than having genuine growth and development condemned, we might not have had to cope with 400 years of needed change in 4 years of the council and the 40 years since.

To adequately express the wonder of the mysteries requires change.

I have a lot of respect for Michael Olbash, and although he ran up against some of the dysfunctions of church life when the pastor changed in his last parish, I'm confident that he'll be making a strong contribution to the Church's worship here in Boston.

  one of Fr. Keyes' photos

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This page contains a single entry by Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, C.PP.S. published on June 30, 2004 3:32 PM.

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