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.


verbumveritatis said...

Does the parish have bells to use? That'd solve the problem :)

Jane said...

No, they don't have any bells. And it wouldn't do us any good to donate a set, because there's this thing called the "liturgist" who tells the altar servers what to do, and he won't allow it. And the pastor won't put his foot down because he's afraid of rocking the boat by telling any of the employees that they're wrong, and ought to conform to Church teaching or face the consequences.