“Young people do not want a Mass the reflects the world, but a Mass that reflects heaven”

March 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Patrick's Blog

A Catholic priest just posted a particularly insightful comment on my Facebook page in response to my earlier post about Dale Fushek, the founder of Life Teen.  That post sparked a lively conversation there about the merits and demerits of Life Teen, especially its (in my view, deeply misguided) style of celebrating the Mass.  I’d like to share the good Father’s observation with you.

Personally, I think he nails it, bang on the bull’s eye. What do you think?

“From my experience as a pastor, I can say with great confidence that what youth yearn for is not praise and worship, guitars and drums, but reverence, mystery, silence, and fidelity to the 2000 year tradition of the Church. When parishes start using incense, Latin, chant, more silence, the organ instead of guitars and drums, the young people start showing up more and more, and vocations blossom from within the community. Young people do not want a Mass the reflects the world, but a Mass that reflects heaven, which is other worldly and mysterious. Drums, guitars, clapping, etc., do not reflect heaven, they reflect a rock concert.”

Enter the Conversation...

17 Responses to ““Young people do not want a Mass the reflects the world, but a Mass that reflects heaven””
  1. Marcia says:

    I ams 63 years old and long for the masses with incense,the sprinkling with water and hearing Vida Aquam sung before the high mass on Sunday. I would love to have the yearly tradition of Forty Hours Devotion come back into vogue. I like an occassional Charismatic Mass with praise, but I can do without the bongo drums and the kumbya at a Sunday liturgy. We no longer have the tabernacle in a prominent place near the altar, so why genuflect? We need to bring back reverence and spirituality in our worship. If we truly believe that Christ is the source and the summit of our church in the Eucharist, then we need to act like it. Thank God my parish still has it’s beautiful hih altar, the crucifix, gorgeous stained windows and lovely statues. We have sacramentals to remind us about our Lord Jesus, His Mother and other saints. If there is one thing I dislike it is going to mass in a building that looks like a glorified bowling alley with nothing but an altar to suggest that I am in a Catholic Curch!

  2. paul says:

    “From my experience as a pastor, I can say with great confidence that what youth yearn for is not praise and worship, guitars and drums, but reverence, mystery, silence, and fidelity to the 2000 year tradition of the Church.”

    In all fairness, this looks really unfair. First of all, is he only talking about the context of the Mass? Is he saying that young people don’t want guitars at Mass, but would much rather experience these other beautiful parts of our tradition at Mass? Or is he talking about, in general?

    If he is talking about ‘in general’, then I don’t like his statement. Because, personally, I want both. I love all these things very much. But I also really really like praise and worship music, even when done on the guitar. Although they probably conflict with each other as far as the music to be used during Mass and other liturgies (though I’m not sure, for reasons I just stated in my last post), I don’t think they are in conflict in general. I know people who love tradition but also are for praise and worship.

    Best,
    Paul

  3. paul says:

    I am involved in a life teen program. So, here’s how it is:

    They play praise and worship music at mass. And to be honest it is usually really good because the guy leading music is really good, strong voice and pretty music. The solo guitarist is likewise very talented. So overall the music is quite nice. However, it’s praise and worship music, and it is out of place for mass.

    However, here’s the thing. I’m not sure if praise and worship music at mass is really against liturgical law. Everything I’ve been reading says something like, ‘if the music, and the instruments are adaptable for sacred use’, then it’s okay for it to be used at Mass. Well, the music is pretty good, and I don’t think it’s usually distracting anybody. So does that mean that it meets the requirements? The requirements seem to be stated so vaugely that they basically say ‘if people can pray to it, then it’s permissible’. Well, the praise and worship music at the life teen Mass at my parish is not difficult to pray to, so not sure if it meets the requirements. They ALSO have a drum player, and he plays well and does not over do it, and again, it all sounds really good. So, I’m not sure exactly what to say about music at life teen Mass, I don’t know whether it meets the liturgical requirements or not, but if done really well, it is prayerful I think.

    The one weak area, like really weak area, is the sung parts of the Mass. They have modern arrangements and they’re pretty awful, and very difficult to sing, and so I think people don’t really sing along with them. This seems really wrong- it seems reasonable to think that the sung parts of the Mass should be singable by everyone, since everyone is required to take part in them.

    They also use praise and worship for prayer gatherings and for adoration. And, again I don’t know if the music meets the liturgical requirements (because adoration is a liturgy, right, or at least when it includes benediction?). And, to be honest, it is really good, and it really helps people pray. Let me tell you, it’s such a beautiful thing when you got 60 teenagers singing their hearts out in a small room for a prayer meeting, it sounds amazing.

    I love traditional music, Gregorian chant, and hymns. There is almost never any Gregorian chant at our parish, I guess none of our priests like them very much. So nobody really knows the chants. I was at a benediction, and I was like one of three people (out of like 85) who knew the Tantum Ergo. As far as hymns, nobody does justice to them at our parish. Everybody who leads them at our parish sings operatic style, or really high pitched. So while it’s pretty to listen to, that’s about all you can do, nobody is able to sing along with them. So, I think the teens have not seen hymns sung well, and that is probably why there is not a large demand for them among the younger. I went to a mass at another parish, and did all their songs from the hymnal- absolutely awful and embarassing, sounded like screachy version of beauty and the beast. So, I think some people just have really bad taste, and we don’t have people doing justice to the hymns.

    Our teens have never really been exposed to Latin mass, so I don’t know how they would like it. There is strong Marian devotion, Eucharistic devotion, and there are many other good things about the Life Teen program. I do think our teens love hearing strong preaching, about sin and confession, the Real Presence, etc. At our parish, there is one priest in particular who seems to give no substance in his preaching, and is always trying to entertain or something (it’s pretty embarrassing), and I’m pretty sure all the teens are sick of listening to him. So, I think they want the truth.

    Best,
    Paul

  4. John Carrigan says:

    If it is really true that “….When parishes start using incense, Latin, chant, more silence, the organ instead of guitars and drums, the young people start showing up more and more….” Then why aren’t old school churches filled with young people? The Pastor who’s being quoted has seen something different in his personal experience then what others have. He shouldn’t lean on his own understanding but instead trust in what the Lord has to say about it. The bible speaks plainly about singing and dancing in praise of the Lord. I’m not defending nut job Dale Fushek, but the world is rushing into hell and we gather into holy huddles to argue about worship. Jesus came to change our hearts not complain the music was too loud.

    • Mike says:

      I once thought “If the music brings people in, great”. But, as I came to appreciate what the Mass truly is, I realized that there is an appropriate set of liturgical music and norms for the Mass that give due reverence and lift us up to heaven. The problem is that if people are only coming to the Mass because it has “cool” music, a great band, etc then the Mass is nothing more than a protestant service where people will shop around to find the best entertainment value. No matter what, we need to educate ourselves and others on what the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is truly about. If we do not understand the Mass, then the rest simply does not fall into place. This means for all of us to live out the faith, teach others, and inspire good catechesis. Too often, we are littered by the noise of the world and can’t listen to how the Lord is speaking to us. Making the Mass about entertainment does little to allow one to sit in silence and reflect on our lives. The Father is right. The churches that are thriving are the ones who go out of their way to stand by the Magisterium and live out the norms.

    • Jess says:

      I am 24 years old and I go to a parish that has the Traditional Latin Mass and I’ve found that there are many more young people in their 20s and 30s at that Mass than others. I see teenagers at other Masses but they are with their parents. It’s interesting to see where young adults voluntarily attend.

  5. Ben says:

    I think we’re at a point in the American Church where we’re asking, ‘What will bring the young people to Church?’

    I think that Lifeteen masses are so successful at bringing young people to mass, not because of the music or energetic preaching, but because they actually MAKE AN EFFORT to bring young people to mass! And they sincerely care about the salvation of these young souls.

    Further, Lifeteen groups (and youth groups) make an effort to build community. And community is what is sorely lacking in our world (and many of our parishes)

    I think we should consider our parishes to be lifeboats in the shark infested waters of the world.

  6. Joe says:

    I think there is a difference between praise and worship. With all the noise that infects our daily lives it becomes difficult if not impossible to hear God’s voice without contemplation and silence. I understand the need for the emotional energy of praise and music, but I also think that God does his greatest work on our souls when we are quiet and listening. I don’t remember where I heard this but Emotions are the shallowest part of our human nature and God does not do his deepest work in shallow soil. Both praise and worship are necessary but I don’t think that we can achieve a closeness with God by letting either part overtake the other. Personally I have experienced the most growth in Mass and adoration both of which I think are great forms of praise.

  7. April H. says:

    Why is it that so often when you see photos of children or teens at Mass, they are taken when they are “holding hands” during the Our Father. This always bugs me.

  8. Greg says:

    I think it’s a slippery slope to declare what instrumentation best reflects heaven, what musical style of worship best leads people’s hearts and minds to Christ, and then throw stones at a youth program that has grown and inspired faith in tens of thousands of people.

    Once you move past chant and voice, it’s a matter of preference. Organ and guitar are both adequate for supporting the singing of the faithful. They both serve the same end, which is lifting the hearts and minds of God’s people to prayer with Him. One Church, One body, One voice.

  9. Sue from Buffalo says:

    Exactly what I’ve been thinking only he put it perfectly. Hit the nail right on the head!

  10. Mary Rose says:

    I could not agree with you more. Even though I am not a “youth” (unless I’m compared to a centenarian…) I was attracted to the Traditional Latin Mass for the same reasons. I was coming out of years of attending non-denominational churches– their worship bands rivaling some of the best rock bands around. After awhile, I felt overwhelmed and wrung-out. Hyper-emotionalism goes hand-in-hand with it and most of those types of worship services last 15-20 minutes.

    Walking into the silence and mystery of the TLM was like falling into a cool, calm lake and finding peace. :-)

    The Mystery of the Holy Mass to me cannot be fully experienced without the silence to ponder it. It’s very tough to do with constant action and electric guitars.

    • Martha says:

      Wonderfully put, Mary Rose. My pet peeve is when crappy modern music crashes in on my meditation and prayer in preparation to receive and after reception of our Lord. Hurry up and get those music books out! You wouldn’t want silence interfering with the last verse of “Rock Out, Ecumenical People!”

      In my church, the drum set is front and center, while the tabernacle is off to the side.

      When people have asked why my children aren’t in the praise and worship choir, the answer is simple, and it’s not just because they ‘perform’ and are applauded. It’s because music during Mass should revere God and lift us up to Heaven, where the choirs of angels are praising God. Do you imagine the angels would be singing praise and worship music with drums and guitars? Or could you see them with harps and singing something more like “O Sanctissima” or “Adoramus Te?” I think it’s a no-brainer.

  11. Andy says:

    Exactly. The sooner parishes and dioceses realize this the sooner they can stop spending enormous amounts of time, money, and energy talking and planning for ‘priestless Sundays’ and ‘parish re-alignment’ and other nonsense. The proven track record of what works and a proven track record of what does not. Unfortunately, there are too many at every level that are ideologically committed to what does not work.

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