One could entitle this post An Open Letter to Pastors, but regardless, I offer the following both as a plea as well as a challenge to all of our priests.
Fathers, I know that most of you are overwhelmed in your work to the point of breaking. You were taught in seminary to save souls, but when you dare to challenge your flocks to greatness, you turn around to find that few have your backs. You are required to be de facto CEOs of your parishes and schools, which allows you almost no time to form meaningful relationships with your parishioners so that they trust you when you spur them on to greater things. Or, as soon as they begin to trust you you are transferred. This begs the question, why would you ever want to spend the time and energy to fix the music in your parishes. I know that many writers in the traditional camp claim that by changing the music in your parishes, overnight your churches will swell in numbers and everything will be alright. That’s not true. You will more than likely loose parishioners (although you will also gain a few). Of the people who remain in your parishes, some will grumble and hope for your eventual transfer. However, you must remember that you weren’t ordained to seek the status quo, but to be great just as you ask your parish families to be great.
Whether your particular parishes are rich or poor, big or small, love sacred music or hate it, there is one thing that I challenge all of you to do, and that is to sing the Mass. Most people who know me personally know that I believe that if a priest could do only one thing to change his parish for the good, I believe it would be to reinstate ad orientem worship. Most of you are not prepared to do that, I realize. However, the second best thing you could do would be to sing the Mass (and please start with the Preface Dialogue and Preface). If you are afraid of any backlash, just pick one thing (the Preface Dialogue and Preface) and sing it for the next year at all of your Sunday Masses. If someone asks you why you sing the Mass and you are afraid to begin a liturgical discussion, you can honestly answer that you just like to sing. Those who enjoy it will congratulate you, while those who don’t won’t usually jump ship over such a matter.
If you do this each year for the 6 years you might find yourself at a parish, between you and your congregations, the Preface Dialogue and Preface (year 1), the Collect , Prayer over the Gifts and the Prayer after Communion (year 2), the Dialogue before and after the Gospel (year 3), the Lord’s Prayer (year 4), the Introductory Rites and Closing Rites (year 5) and finally any other small dialogues in the Mass (year 6) will be sung. You could do this without ever challenging your volunteer musicians, praise bands, or whoever or whatever else makes music in your parishes to change anything. At the same time, you will have changed the way your parishioners perceive what is really going on when you celebrate your Sunday Masses. They will at least understand that something out of the ordinary is taking place!
What are you waiting for? Get to it!