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Why Catholics Can't Sing: The Culture of Catholicism and the Triumph of Bad Taste Paperback – March 25, 1992

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Day, head of the music department at Salve Regina College in Rhode Island, accurately and wittily skewers what passes for culture in American Catholicism, particularly as expressed in church music. He takes aim at the "Irish-American" repertoire of songs that comprise Catholic music in this country, and assails other less felicitous liturgical practices in vogue since Vatican II, such as applauding during Mass. "Liturgical post-modernism," according to Day, has resulted in noisy and forced participation from the laity, and encourages a church-wide narcissism that is a serious threat to individuals as well as the institution. No mere nay-sayer, Day makes positive suggestions for nurturing the latent vitality he perceives in the American Catholic community. This is an informative, insightful and entertaining critique.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 183 pages
  • Publisher: Crossroad Classic; Reprint edition (March 25, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0824511530
  • ISBN-13: 978-0824511531
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #420,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 50 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
Thomas Day presents a very interesting theory as to why Catholics have become silent during the Mass. His comments at the current state of litugical music (as well as liturgy in general, seeing that the two are closely connected) are explained very thoroughly with very clear examples. While he certainly does not have much love for contemporary "folkish" church music and informal (sloppy) liturgies, he does not feel a 180 degree turn to the Tridentine Mass of old will solve the problem. I found myself laughing out loud as Day would discuss the exact situations present in my parish in a very witty and humorous way. If you think that "They Will Know We Are Christians" or "Here I Am Lord" is the best litugical music out there, then buy this book and open yourself up to 2000 years of Catholic tradition that Thomas Day very cleverly unlocks.
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104 of 114 people found the following review helpful By William P. Cunningham on August 25, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Once upon a time the Nasty Old Church was dominated by gray-haired old men in choir robes who led choirs in renditions of the St. Gregory Hymnal and choral Masses of great insipidity. Then the Fathers of Vatican Council II wisely sat together and, behold, decreed that all the people should sing together in Latin and Gregorian chant should have pride of place. But, said they, in certain mission lands indigenous music and language may be used in some circumstances. Then came fell creatures fresh from six months of classes in Pastoral Music, bearing guitars and microphones and amplified boxes filled with transistors. And, behold, they appealed to the Spirit of Vatican II, who heard their pleas and gave them power over religious women, and men with itching ears. And these cried out to their bishops, saying "away with anything written before 1970, and with organs of metal and wood, and with choruses singing aught unsyncopated, and with any instrument that is not plucked. And they cast all these into the fire, and behold there was such a noisesome sound as had not been heard since the dawn of time. Thomas Day, sometimes with tongue in cheek, but often with pitchfork in hand, skewers the new liturgical music establishment without mercy. He indicts FBI (Foreign Born Irish) priests for imposing a reign of silence and maudlin hymns on generations of American Catholics. But he also impales those who impose unsingable light rock music with insipid lyrics and syncopated melodies. Unfortunately, Day's analysis is not dated in 2001. We are still stuck with the drivel that poured forth from the St. Louis Jesuits in the seventies. Indeed, the new liturgical music reign of terror is worse than the old maudlin hymns ever were.Read more ›
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is not a book about one particular type of mass versus another, its about achieving practical, meaningful, enjoyable community worship. A few years ago out of curiosity, I attended a tridentine sung mass. I had never been to a high mass in latin before and I found it a much deeper spiritual experience than the post Vatican II mass I was used to. The solemnity, the ritual, and the music combined to let me understand the grave import of the ceremony, and become deeply aware of the special presence of God, what's more it was joyous and enjoyable. However, when I tried to rationalise the experience, figure out exactly why this mass and its "old church" music allowed me to feel so deeply compared to my normal experiece of mass - I couldn't do it, (surely the mass is the mass, whatever the liturgical style, I said to myself). In this book Thomad Day explains why for many people catholic communal worship can be a bland experience, even an irritating chore, devoid for the most part of any sense of the divine, and by referring to catholic tradition he suggests simple, effective, commonsense methods for improving the community worship experience. For any concerned catholic layperson - I thoroughly recommend it.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By J. Michael on May 14, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a book I'd been eagerly wanting to read since I first heard about it in the early 1990s and after reading it in 2006 I can say that it is as relevant to the Church as the day it was printed. As a Catholic child growing up in the 1980s, I would look with disdain on those catatonic church-goers who sat defiantly mute while the rest of us did our part and belted out the hymns listed on the board in the front of the church. Even as the specter of hippie guitarists and their soft-pop stylings began to stir up a vague feeling of discomfort and opposition in my young reactionary self, I still bore in mind the maxim of my nun teachers that "Singing is praying twice" and soldiered on through "classics" that sounded more appropriate for a gay wedding shower, all the while wondering what the heck was wrong with the mute holdouts. Were they retarded? Were they bad Catholics? Did they lose their vocal chords in Vietnam? With age, maturity and perspective, I came to realize the problem: most modern Catholic church music is utter garbage. It's ugly, banal, effeminate, desacralized and unsingable for a congregation. Beyond that realization though, I had no idea how to articulate a diagnosis or a treatment. Thomas Day accomplishes both and puts into words what millions of American Catholics are feeling.

Day writes with a verve and wickedly humorous style that one wouldn't expect to find in a book on this kind of subject. His way with a phrase frequently has one laughing out loud as he skewers the people who perpetrated this musical assault on the American Catholic congregation. Surpringly, it started before Vatican II and it started with the Irish.
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