19 August 2010

The Tale of the Bells

My husband unknowingly opened up a can of worms when he used the organ's zimbelstern as Sanctus bells. The music director is asserting his authority--the organist is not to take any requests or suggestions from the priest that have not been cleared with the music director first. The young parochial vicar, according to the music director, has a big ego, cannot work within the parish's power structure, wants to dress up the liturgy with Tridentine trappings and bring the Church back to pre-Vatican II times. Yeesh. The music director is a very good musician, a decent composer, and has a lot of experience working with choirs of both adults and children. He's also a fairly nice guy. Unfortunately, this attitude is exemplary of a lot of folks of a certain age, generation, and experience. He lived through the changes of the '60s and '70s and as an active church musician was intimately involved in those changes. He has nostalgia for some of the music he sang as a choirboy, but he also has some issues with clerical authority. He remembers those 15-minute Masses because he served them, and he is afraid that 15-minute Masses are what happens when priests are allowed to plan their own liturgies without the assistance of professional liturgists and committees of lay people. He's not wrong about that, but he's not exactly right, either. I won't go over that issue now, since probably all four or five people who read this blog know the arguments and perhaps have dealt with these issues in the past.

The main point is, the liturgical laws of the Church as a whole and of the local church (the diocese has published norms about this) say that Sanctus bells are recommended. Also, priests have the right to request that these norms be followed. It is probably true that the parochial vicar should have brought this to the attention of the music director rather than making a direct request of the organist. It is also true that using Sanctus bells should not be a divisive issue that warrants a mention in an employee review. The fact that it has become a divisive issues tells me two things: first, that the music director is interested in asserting his authority, and second that there is a real division in the parish of which the Sanctus bell controversy is merely the latest manifestation. This whole thing feels like a cake that broke coming out of the pan, and someone has frosted it in hope that no one will notice. Unfortunately, the organist who didn't know about the crack put the cake under a bright light, and as the frosting warmed up the cracks started to show. Fortunately, as long as he keeps his head down, this should blow over without lasting consequences.

08 August 2010

Coast to Coast

The title does not refer to the oddball late-night radio show, but rather to my recent move. My blog partner, Lizzy, moved to the East Coast a few years ago, and my husband and I have now joined her on the Atlantic shores! Not only are we now living on the East Coast, we are living in the South. This should be interesting! My husband has his first full-time job as a church organist at a Catholic parish in the diocese of Raleigh (I won't be disclosing the parish name or the town where we live).

Today was my husband's first official day as the new organist, and he has already stirred up a controversy! The parish music director is in his sixties, and I think the pastor (Msgr) is too, but we and the parochial vicar (Fr. M) are in our twenties. Fr. M is a NAC grad and fairly conservative--for instance, he sang many of the dialogues, collects, and part of the canon today. My husband, noting the lack of Sanctus bells, used the organ's zimbelstern as makeshift Sanctus bells. The music director chewed him out for it after Mass and said that the pastor had decreed no bells would be rung, so for the next Mass the zimbelstern was laid to rest. After the second Mass, Fr. M (who is on for most of the Masses because Msgr is on vacation) said, "Why no bells? I liked them!" My husband explained that he'd been told not to, and Fr. M frowned. "I'll send an email to your boss," he said, "and you can use the bells at my Masses. I wasn't aware that Msgr had any opinion on Sanctus bells."

Obviously there is some kind of generational disconnect here. The music director also informed my husband that "None of the churches on the East Coast use Sanctus bells anymore" which I know for a fact is not true. I can name at least half a dozen in New York alone that use bells. The young organist and the young priest clearly have different ideas about how liturgy ought to go from the older music director and the older priest.

We will have Fr. M over next week to bless our new house (and it's an actual house, with a yard and friendly, quirky neighbors--I'm going to the neighborhood watch meeting on Thursday and planning my vegetable garden). We'll try to get him to stay for dinner, and talk about life at the parish. I know he can only be forthcoming to a certain degree, but maybe it will give us some insight into people and situations that we might need to be careful of. Wish us luck!