06 May 2006

An Argument in Favor of No Music

I never thought I'd say this, but I've come across an argument in favor of not having music at Mass--but only because of special circumstances, mind you.

Last Saturday, CatholicNerd and I were in charge of music for a Mass at parish which normally doesn't have music for Saturday evening Masses, but wanted music for that one because there had been a retreat at the parish that day. We were practicing a hymn outside the front door, so as not to disturb those praying inside. A couple walked up to the door, noticed us, and the lady--startled--asked, "Is there going to be music at this Mass?" We confirmed that there would be, and she and her husband mubled to each other about going to Mass on Sunday morning instead, after which it was apparently decided that she'd stay for Mass and he'd come back and pick her up later.

Somewhat insulted, I said in what I thought was a reassuring manner, "We're not that bad, I promise." (The priest--relatively new to the parish--had told me that due to the very bad music under past regimes, his parishoners had opted for no music at all, at any of the Masses, at least on a regular basis.) The lady again looked startled, but said, "Oh, no, it's not that. My husband has a problem with his ears and any music, but especially the organ, causes him pain. We're so grateful that there's usually not music here, because this year was the first time in ages that he's been able to go to Mass on Christmas and Easter."

It had never occurred to me that people could have an ear problem such that music caused them pain, although I've heard that if you have tinnitus (ringing in the ears), accidentally hearing the tone at which your ears ring can cause the ringing to become temporarily or permanently worse. Perhaps this is the problem that the man has, or maybe it's something else, but either way, isn't it somewhat unfair that if there's music at every Mass, someone who has such an uncorrectable physiological problem can't really come to Mass? If there's no such person in your parish, fine, have music all the time, but I would hope that if a pastor was approached by a person with such a problem, he'd be willing to accomodate. And this is where the flexibility of the Roman rite is a good thing (versus many of the Eastern rites, in which no one can concieve of not singing--normally a good thing, but in this case, not so much).

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