- 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: 40 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #998,156 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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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Starting from premise of American RC worship heavily influenced by Irish immigrants resulting in Mass void of chanting and music which more characterizes most of European RC churches, Day weaves tale of the smooth, folk Irish song getting hold of American RC worship in reaction to Irish plight in their country being dominated by British Anglican power. Interesting historical observation.
From this, he traces the violent reaction to reintroduction of good liturgical worship. This results in curvature of RC worship to conform to what has become increasingly American Christian desire to interject common, folk, popular ideals into worship space: Mr.Caruso song leader/praise band dominance competing with priest, which causes priest to have to rely upon his personality interjections and the precious term which Day uses of "liturgical klunk." This is what sinfilled individuals love, the Ego Led service of what they consumers want, removing any trace of historic Transcendant/Immanent God being among them.
Day is wonderful in this point of view thus far. It jives all too well unfortunately with other confessional bodies infection by this American consumerism.
However, towards the end, from chapter six on it begins to drag. He seems to have lost his heretofore tight style and begins to move about with analogy to analogy to book illustration etc. This reviewer felt he definitely lost steam in the last chapters.
However, not to discourage anyone who wants to have their musical/liturgical tastes sharpened by this one who has certainly been exposed to much which is pertinent to entire universal church of all times. Clever and insightful, this is salient reading for layperson, clergy and church musician as well. One of his final comments should resonate with us: "Good musical advice is one thing; implementing it in the Catholic church today is a little like trying to plant a simple but healthy crop in the middle of a hurricane."
First, let me point out that I grew up loving almost all of the songs which Day - often quite hilariously - takes issue with in this chapter (perhaps because I was raised in a parish which fits the description of Day's hypothetical "St. Wilbur's" to a T!). But I recently had a major eye-opening experience, due to a variety of circumstances, and would have to say that while many "newer" Catholic hymns are excellent, many also fall into at least one of three categories of danger:
1. Theologically misleading: Day discusses such popular hymns as "Let There Be Peace on Earth." (I would also add "Ashes" and "Let Us Break Bread Together," among others.)
2. Our "Special" Selves (hymns which place the focus of the Mass on the people): "They'll Know We Are Christians by Our Love," "We Are the Light of the World," etc.
3. "I Am the Voice of God": This category required the greatest amount of open-mindedness on my part, but I believe Day's concerns are absolutely correct: "Here I Am, Lord," "I Am the Bread of Life," "Be Not Afraid," and many others are discussed by Day - who points out that this problem goes beyond a question of mere taste. (Although I don't recall him using the word, when man takes it upon himself to pretend that he's God, I'd say that borders on blasphemy, don't you think?)
I don't feel I'm alone in sharing Day's concern (you may wish to Google the article "Heretical Hymns" by theologian George Weigel). Granted, I'm sure none of the composers of these hymns intended them to undermine the Catholic Faith. But it's still quite alarming, since worshipers - especially young ones - do frequently misunderstand what they sing. Case in point: For years my Catholic school classmates and I assumed "One Bread, One Body" was a recipe, based on the refrain's first few lines.
I pray that Mr. Day's book will continue to serve as a reminder that the Mass is about one Person: Jesus Christ. Period.