Fr. Christopher Smith: The Scoop on Praise and Worship

Here is a section of an article by Fr. Christopher Smith about Praise and Worship music. Here is one of his best points. Anyone who cares about sacred music should read the entire article, at the link below.

  1. P&W music confuses transcendence with feeling.
    The deliberate manipulation of the emotions by P&W often produces an excess of sentiment. The very strength of that feeling can induce some to think that such an event is the work of the transcendent God in them. Musical forms which truly are transcendent, in that they disengage from the emotional and bring the person above their emotions, such as Gregorian chant, are rejected because they do not necessarily cause an emotional event, which is seen as proof of divine action.

The constant spiritual tradition of the Church has taught to distrust feelings and to prize the transcendent holiness of God. It also teaches that human manipulation of other people’s intellects and wills is a violation against the freedom of the human person. When done in the name of God, it is also a violation of God’s sovereignty over the intellect and will of man, as it replaces the free action of God in the soul with a gimmick to make that action in theory possible.

Read the full article here

I’m sending this to my pastor and the parish music director. Suffering in grumbling “silence” for nine years is long enough!

Excellent article.

A very wise priest. :thumbsup:

In Christ,


And of course, the celebrant thought that I was too shy to come up and so he encouraged me, from the altar, to join the kids. I had had enough, and so I yelled from the back pew, “No, sorry, Father, I’m a Catholic, I don’t do that kind of thing,” and pulled out a rosary and knelt to pray it as I watched the Eucharistic Prayer degenerate into something eerily similar to the ecstatic cults we had studied about in Ancient Greek History.

Wow. If I was there I would have wanted to say something like that, but I don’t know if I would have. That’s incredibly courageous. There is a lot of beauty that you Latins have in your tradition and it truly warms my heart to see people standing up for it, not for tradition’s sake, but because of how it honors God. :slight_smile:

In Christ,

I’m glad he mentioned at the end that he is not opposed to P&W music at other times besides Mass. That tends to be my preference as well.

However, I will take P&W music any day over the standard OCP fare. At least P&W music (for the most part) is addressed to God rather than simply being about God (or – more frequently – about ourselves).

Outstanding article! Just outstanding! Keep 'em coming! :slight_smile:

Exactly my position. Assuming the lyrics are sound (theologically), I have no problem with it. Not just outside of Mass, but outside of church. But most of it is much better than OCP.

You really need to check out the Chant Cafe. You can subscribe to get an email with every new post too:

It’s a great article and spot on. One thing I find interesting is how we went from a “processional hymn” to a “gathering song.” In fact, one of our music directors still catches himself saying “processional hymn,” but then corrects himself to say “gathering song.”:(. It makes me sad that we’ve changed it.

I’m still left wondering how I am to feel about music that follows the antiphons for the Mass, but in the style of P&W music.:confused:

This is an entirely subjective evaluation. Though P&W isn’t my cup of tea either, the idea that liturgical music shouldn’t stir an emotional response seems difficult to accept. Any style of music, including chant, has the potential to cause an emotional response. There seems to not be any reason given in the selection you’ve offered why plainsong is imune from this failing.

I will fully agree that Mass is about our collective worship of God. I will further agree that there is far too much music that puts too much focus on us and not enough on Him. But, I don’t think that. But to say that the music we use for Mass cannot cause an emotional response ignores the emotions I’d argue we’re supposed to encounter at Mass. For example, when singing the Gloria, shouldn’t we be lifted up as we praise God?

I’ve read a great many posts over the years in these forums where Catholics say, “I FEEL more reverent when the music is chant (or some other form of ancient music.”

In fact, what Father Smith says about P and W music is what I say about chant/Latin/other trappings: “The very strength of that feeling can induce some to think that such an event is the work of the transcendent God in them.”

So in the future, I don’t want to see Catholics write anything on CAF about how they FEEL about the traditional music. Their feelings are meaningless.

Except that it’s not called a “gathering song”. It’s called the Entrance Chant. From the GIRM:
46. …] [The purpose of the Introductory Rites] is to ensure that the faithful who come together as one establish communion and dispose themselves to listen properly to God’s word and to celebrate the Eucharist worthily. …]

  1. After the people have gathered, the Entrance chant begins as the priest enters with the deacon and ministers. The purpose of this chant is to open the celebration, foster the unity of those who have been gathered, introduce their thoughts to the mystery of the liturgical season or festivity, and accompany the procession of the priest and ministers.
    It’s not a “gathering song” because we’re supposed to have “gathered” already.

Touché. :wink:

What a great paragraph from Fr Smith. Fantastic and helpful distinctions.

The rich nuances will certainly be lost on many P&W fans.

I think that P&W fans might be insulted at the insinuation that they are intellectually obtuse.

So anyone who likes that style of music isn’t smart enough to grasp his ideas? That’s not only grossly inaccurate, it is fully UnChristian and insulting to any number of people. What is gained be denigrating others?

Calm down. Not what I said. My point is that their love of such music will over ride internalization of the great points that Fr. Smith makes.

Such biases exist in other fields…medical hypotheses override the data and disease base rates all the time, leading to medical errors. Has nothing to do with “intelligence”

So calm down.

It’s also true that many such people - my parish’s music director included - see no distinction between music appropriate for Mass and other music. That is, there is a perfectly overlapping set of P&W music with Mass music. Not so.

Also, they miss out on the rich treasury of music that the church has given us.