Adversus Catholic “Praise and Worship”

This guest blog post is by Brent Stubbs, and he blogs at He is a writer, father of four (almost 5 + 1 in heaven), likes his coffee black, considers himself a lay philosopher, and is a generally interested person (yes–he meant “interested”). You can watch his conversion story as told by him in his interview on EWTN’s The Journey Home here. Enough said. This post is in response to “Time for Catholic Praise and Worship”.

I’m Catholic, but I wasn’t always Catholic. For more than 20 years, I was a member of various Protestant churches. I was raised in the Assemblies of God, moved to a non-denominational church, then treaded the Southern Baptist waters, launched off to Oral Roberts University, became a licensed minister in the International Pentecostal Holiness Church, was the lead guitarist for Victory Christian Center in Tulsa, OK, and eventually made my way back to the Assemblies of God. Then, in a turn of events after the birth of my first child, I decided “enough was enough”. Having served for over 3+ years as a Bible teacher in Protestant high schools, I decided to embark upon a spiritual journey to figure out in what “church” my children should be raised. Had Jesus founded a “Church”?

Victory Christian Center, Tulsa, OK at

During that journey, we wandered into an emergent church but ended back in the non-denominational church we had gone to when we were first married (out of convenience). 3 years later (via The University of Dallas graduate philosophy department) on the Feast of Christ the King, we entered into full communion with the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Yup, I’m a full-blown, card-carrying papist. In trying to write a “response” to Devin’s post, I figure I might as well write it in the way I write on my own blog. Thus, this post is not so much a generic argument as it is an exposé of how I went from a world that made “praise and worship” the terminus of the Christian life to a Catholic who would shudder at thinking of taking up his guitar to do “praise and worship” as a faithful son of the Catholic Church.

Question #1: Does




Disconnect maybe?

Think about it. This was an extremely important question for me. The cradle Catholic may look at Protestant “praise and worship”–and of course I mean the low-church variety Devin seemed to be referencing–and think “this is like way NEAT-O”. However, for someone like myself, I was wondering how in the heck this behavior developed to begin with. The “who am I” and “why am I” questions have a way of moving the question past appearances. For one, it seemed so foreign to Scripture and so much like…well…popular culture. Not to mention that I got the same “experience” hearing Edwin McCain walking the aisles of WalMart as I did on a Wednesday night at “Elevate”.

So keep the images in your mind for a moment (a kind of gestalt argument). At about the moment when these images were making my brain spit out pine bark, I read some very interesting stuff from some Orthodox theologians. What did they say? The skinny version is that “worship” is not about our tastes, but just the opposite. Worship is about conforming our tastes to God. Enter liturgy. I had already considered how the Divine Liturgy is a kind of Protoevangelium. If liturgy comes first (before the New Testament), spans multiple continents in the first century without email or a fax machine, and exists as the historical means by which Christians should approach and experience God, then it serves notice on “my tastes”. If liturgy is the way God asks me to worship Him, who am I to argue? Plus it sure makes the addition problem look a lot more coherent.

Question #2: What about all the people who get left out?

This question has two parts. The first part has to do with taste, the second has to do with grace. For starters, when someone suggests “praise and worship”, they are generally suggesting some kind of music they really enjoy. However, I have experience playing music in predominately all-African American congregations. I love “Black-Gospel” music. Do you? You may not. Did you know a lot of people don’t like your favorite kind of music? (Sniff. Sniff.) You get the drift. Once you go down the road of taste, there is no going back. Do we need an “emo” praise and worship service after the “white-pop-rock” version? Some R&B to follow? I’m afraid that justify-all word “relevance” is lurking in the shadows. In the modern world, we have somehow taken the word “relevance” and genetically mutated it, and the resulting gremlin is missing one important gene: truth. Now, the definition looks like this:

rel·e·vance [rel-uh-vuhns] (noun): the state of sounding good and exerting inordinate justificatory power. The appearance of a relationship to a matter when in fact none exists. The end of western civilization.

"Yeah, man! That totally makes it so much more relevant."

We see this problem even in the Catholic Church. When Catholics lament that the 70’s hymns being sung are banal or passé, we forget that when they were introduced in the 70’s they were en vogue. It is, I am afraid, the hamster-wheel of “relevance”. So, I agree then that we can really learn from our separated brothers and sisters–but this time not in the affirmative.  In his book The Spirit of the Liturgy, Pope Benedict XVI (then Cardinal Ratzinger) described the problem with the music under discussion and Christian worship:

”On the one hand, there is pop music, which is certainly no longer supported by the people in the ancient sense (populus). It is aimed at the phenomenon of the masses, is industrially produced, and ultimately has to be described as a cult of the banal. “Rock”, on the other hand, is the expression of elemental passions, and at rock festivals it assumes a cultic character, a form of worship, in fact, in opposition to Christian worship. People are, so to speak, released from themselves by the experience of being part of a crowd and by the emotional shock of rhythm, noise, and special lighting effects. However, in the ecstasy of having all their defenses torn down, the participants sink, as it were, beneath the elemental force of the universe. The music of the Holy Spirit’s sober inebriation seems to have little chance when self has become a prison, the mind is a shackle, and breaking out from both appears as a true promise of redemption that can be tasted at least for a few moments.”

When I read this for the first time, I was scandalized. I had played and or been a part of thousands of hours of “praise and worship”. However, if I were brutally honest with myself and those experiences, I could easily describe the end goal as the “breaking out” of the constraints of “self” and “mind” to some kind of “spiritual worship”. Close eyes. Raise hands. It’s go time.

Enter grace–sort of.

I noticed something, and it was disturbing. Very disturbing. You or I may get something out of a “praise and worship” service but what about those who do not? What I mean is that in these experientially oriented services, there are the “silent sufferers” who are afraid they are either spiritually inept or out-right atheists. Why? Because they feel nothing

Too bad. We like our music.

The Eucharist and the Liturgy is the solution. Why? For starters, it is what Our Lord gave us! At one point in my journey, I was overcome with joy by this truth. Watching a grandmother with a third grade education, a distinguished professor, and field welder, all receive the SAME gift of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist was overwhelming. This truly is a Church of grace! No one got the benefit of some kind of spiritual inside track, goose bump meter, or the like. You did not get “more Jesus” if you got “more chill-bumps” nor were you left out if you just showed up. “The Body of Christ” is the source and summit of our life as Catholics–and must always be the centre of our worship. Nothing can distract from this. An argument from “that’s good too” won’t work here. Too much is at stake (not to mention this kind of mentality).

Lastly, it is in the liturgy that we stay connected to the “story” of salvation. In 1993 (a minute or two ago), Lutheran theologian Robert Jenson lamented Protestantism’s “loss of story” (particularly American Protestantism). No doubt, low-church “praise and worship” is a part of that problem. Such “worship” disconnects the worshiper from the community, pushing the worshiper farther into themselves–a kind of spiritual self-help. The novelty of the music and the tribal nature of the beat creates a fissure in time, a break in the window of history, that allows the “worshiper” to escape the gritty details of reality and in its stead elevate the modern ultimate good of “feeling” in the altar-less sanctuary. No matter the lyrics, the music itself and the order of such “worship” is inherently anti-historical, non-linear, and inculcates an approach to worship that is damaging to the spiritual life.


I know this sounds tough. There are a thousand points I have not covered and two hundred objections I can hear wringing in my ears. Nonetheless, I hope that you would interact with what I have written, not what I have not addressed. For the sake of time, I will only interact with comments that address something that I wrote. I would like to thank Devin for this opportunity and I hope that it is helpful in relationship to your own journey of faith. This is le petite réponse. A more thorough going post is forthcoming, as I understand it, from one of the guys at Called to Communion.

May we all grow more deeply in love with the gift of Our Lord found exclusively in The Holy Liturgy.

Update: All of these observations were made by me at least 3-4 years before I was Catholic. These are not the musings of a papist (although I am one), but rather my thought process of critically examining my old tradition as a member of that tradition. 

72 thoughts on “Adversus Catholic “Praise and Worship””

  1. Great post!

    You and those you have quoted have made valid points on the nature of this self-centered “worship”.

    The whole thing starts with them (and their decision for Christ), and naturally ‘progresses’ from there. It starts with ‘self’, and it continues with ‘self’. No altar, no pulpit, no pews, no candles, and for the most part, no gospel. The whole ball of wax revolves around worshipper and ‘what they should, ought, and must be ‘doing’. Instead of what the Living God has done, is doing, and will yet do for sinners in need of a Savior.

    It is the steady ascension of the uninterrupted self, and reminds me a great deal of Adam and Eve in the Garden, as they decided to ‘rise’ above their created status.

    Thanks for sharing these observations with us.

  2. Brent,

    Thanks for this post. This is a great point: “When Catholics lament that the 70’s hymns being sung are banal or passé, we forget that when they were introduced in the 70’s they were en vogue. It is, I am afraid, the hamster-wheel of “relevance”.”

    I would say, in my original post I did not want praise and worship songs in the Mass, which are where these banal 70s songs are sung. But having praise and worship songs even outside of Mass, in some other setting, still receives the sensible criticism from Pope Benedict on what rock and pop music does to us.

    1. That comment was not directed at what you wrote so much as an observation in relationship to the ever mutilated concept of “relevance”.

      1. You are right. Something being new does not make it–in its nature–against Christian worship. That is not my nor then Cardinal Ratzinger’s point. However, our culture and the culture the organ emerged in are quite different–particularly in terms of musical taste. We should mediate on those difference and discover how times may have changed.

  3. First of all, Amen. I have experienced first hand “ecclesial consumerism” in all its ugliness. I have also experienced the pounding beat-induced emotional high of praise and worship, and come away seeking something deeper, something not about me—something which I eventually found in the Catholic Church.

    As Catholics, we need to be very careful in our efforts to reach separated brethren. We do not need to compromise who we are in an attempt to win them over, and we certainly do not need to start down the path of catering, or of creating a liturgical/musical smorgasbord.

    I have stated previously, and will again, that the Catholic Church will remain most attractive when she is true to herself and the liturgical and musical traditions which are most deeply rooted in Catholic theology, liturgy, and ecclesiology. Any attempt to move away or neglect this heritage is bound, without question, to fail.

  4. This is a good discussion! It’s certainly making me think and ask a lot of questions about the nature of worship and Liturgy.

    Some questions popping up (sorry Brent, might not necessarily be directed at what you’ve written, but I’d love to hear any opinions) include “is this type of worship ever appropriate for a Catholic, and if so in what context? Is it worship at all, or just emotionally-charged selfishness with a spiritual veneer?”

    Followed up by “in what ways the Catholic Church can more actively draw people into Her doors to experience the beauty of the Eucharist and the Liturgy?” It’s very intimidating. Feels like jumping off a high-dive for someone of my socially-anxious nature.

    Great post!

  5. I’m glad you are thinking about the nature of worship. To your first question, I would say qua worship, no. However, I think that Catholics can learn how to “make a new song” from our separated brothers and sisters. We have a reason to shout from the roof-tops because of His great love for us found in the liturgy and especially in the Eucharist.

    The fact that you are in this combox tells me something about the magnetic pull of the Catholic Church. Also, Sam’s comment (last paragraph), I think, answers you well.

  6. Brent,

    Those are good points, however the problem that I see in the Catholic Church today is that we are still trying to combine more contemporary music, in with the liturgy. My wife and I came from the SBC background, and I spent years floating through the non-denominational’s where the worship music was about getting a reaction.

    I’m not suggesting we go back to Gregorian chants (thought it’s not a bad place to be, IMO), just that if we are going to talk about reverence and the power of the liturgy, then we should be making an effort to bring the musical aspects back into the right mindset as well. There’s too much variation out there, I really don’t see what a liturgy needs a 5 piece band, with drums and a lead guitar. That misses the whole point of what the liturgy is about, and to be honest it seems so…so… protestant in nature.

    Tom got it right on the last point of his post, but to make that true we need to go farther than just the recent translation changes, and start setting better ground rules for the liturgy period (I would love to see the hand holding during the Lords Prayer to go away as well).

    Good article, I’ll be perusing your site 🙂



  7. Very interesting post Brent. I am a cradle Catholic and have seen the push to make the music more “hip.” I don’t mind it too much as long as it’s not loud like a rock concert nor being sung during communion. I like to return from receiving Our Lord and pray in quiet. The music can be distracting in that regard. We need to hold to our early Christian roots and not bend to societal pressure in order to keep the pews filled. I think Catholics need to be re-catechized so they fully understand the Eucharistic Liturgy. Our true purpose of being in church.

    1. That’s a really good point, when you first enter the sanctuary you are supposed to sit quietly. Being a new Catholic we have always had music during the liturgy, but it would be awesome to do the Eucharist solemnly.

      So sometimes the best answer on what music to play is NONE!!! 🙂


    2. When we try to make something “relevant”–to up-date it in an attempt to stay in fashion, that action implies that whatever it is that we are up-dating was, in fact, irrelevant (kind of the opposite of the new translation, eh?). You may keep kids interested in high school, but come college or later, they will realize that maybe religion was irrelevant after all. Or, they might join a church that is even MORE “relevant”.

  8. I don’t think there is anything wrong with praise and worship and it should be done more often. I know I am a bad Catholic for thinking such

    1. We are glad to know how you feel. I’m not sure it qualifies you as a “bad Catholic”; unless of course you wear that moniker like a badge of honor.

      So, what about my post do you disagree with or why do you want “praise and worship”?

      1. Around the internet right now if one doesn’t just adore the new translation and hate all the “extra” stuff seems to be a bad Catholic. I converted under the old translation and consider myself a Charismatic Catholic and it just seems that is a bad thing. I really like “Gather us in” and the like but on the net it seems that any who does are bad people.

        While I appericate the old Mass I can say that if it had been the norm I would not have converted. I don’t wear “bad Catholic” willingly I feel it thrust on us by some Traditionalist and it makes me want to weep. Not they say such it just seems implied that if you like something else then what they want your not that good. I hear we go to church for God, I don’t I go to church to get recharged guess that’s another strike against me

        Sometimes it makes me want to un convert and become a Protestant again.
        I am just depressed by all this sorry about unloading on you all.

        1. I’m a charismatic Catholic too! I’m Catholic because this is the Church Jesus founded–no other reason. We agree, let us go to church for God–not to get what we want. Trust me, I don’t want liturgy but it is what God wants for me. God love you.

          1. I go to church because I need it, not for God. I go because it is where I can get recharged from the week in the world

  9. Brent,

    Excellent response! As we have spoken about many times personally, getting “caught up” in what music is being played totally misses the point. Now, we all have preferences and music DOES aid in worship. However, to focus our attention on praise and worship style music, I believe, distracts from the source and summit of the Catholic faith…the Eucharist.

  10. Brent I’m glad you enjoying the liturgy. But the liturgy you are using is not earlier than the New Testament. Your mass (most likely) dates to 1969, even the SSPX guys are using a 1570 liturgy. I may be mistaken on this but to the best of my knowledge the oldest mass we have have is the Mozarabic which is late 6th – early 7th century. We do have pieces of early liturgy like Versio Vetus Latina which go back to the early 4th century, they prove the origins of some common phrases which we still have with us but they prove change (or development) not perfect continuity.

    Now your Pentecostal buddies on the other hand have (as you mentioned)
    — prophetic worship
    — ecstatic worship
    — speaking in tongues
    — faith healing
    — female ministers

    All of which date back to the Montanists of the 2nd century. So I wouldn’t be so sure whose practices are really older. Worse for you, some of the stuff you are condemning, “breaking out” of the constraints of “self” and “mind” to some kind of “spiritual worship”. Close eyes. Raise hands. It’s go time. that goes back to the beginnings of recorded history, including Christian history.

    I personally find Catholic worship a tremendous spiritual experience, but that is personal opinion. Statuary, incense, choirs, traditional music… rings my bell much more than rock music, I’m writing this while listening to a Gallic folk hymn right now; but I can easily see how someone else could have the opposite experience. I think most likely more of your stuff is older than more of their stuff, but not everything.

    1. Liturgy dates to the very beginning. There is no other explanation for how liturgy appears on multiple continents by the end of the 1st century if it is a late(r) innovation (I’m selling the Constantine line–and we are not ship wrecking this combox with that). Moreover, St. Justin Martyr evidences the proto-liturgy before Montanism in his Apologia.

      The EF Mass–which is still in valid use in the RCC–is about 1,400 years old. We can talk about versions of the liturgy (NO), but that is an entirely different conversation than various visions of worship. Lucky for me, I went to Oral Roberts University. We have the largest library in the world of charismatic history (called the Holy Spirit library). I studied Montanism as my spiritual forebears as an undergrad. Heck, we had a class called “Charismatic Life and the Healing Ministry”. The charismatic gifts and miracles have been a part of the Catholic Church from the beginning (we had a seminar on miracles in history–it was just Catholic history). The Catholic Church has also always had schismatic sects spring up throughout her history as well. I recommend this section (Ch.6) of Newman’s Development of Christian Doctrine.

      That aside, I will not go down this rabbit hole with you. I know your schtick is primitivism. That is fine. That is not what this post is about. I made judgements and observations about certain behaviors. I am only interested in your thoughts about those observations. What do you say to question #1 and #2?

      1. Liturgy dates to the very beginning. There is no other explanation for how liturgy appears on multiple continents by the end of the 1st century if it is a late(r) innovation

        Your absolutely right there would be no other explanation. The only problem is that we don’t have any appearance of any first century liturgy. That’s what I covered in my initial post, we don’t have the sorts of evidence for a liturgy you think we do.

        So can you name these first century liturgies? Where can I get a copy of them? What museum has them? Where can I see a list?

        Moreover, St. Justin Martyr evidences the proto-liturgy

        No he doesn’t. He gives a structure for Christian corporate worship. He gives a nice description of the various activities, and that’s certainly useful to determining the structure of worship. He never calls this a liturgy nor mentions anything resembling the type of structure of a liturgical church. The activities he mentions mostly reflect what is later in the liturgy. That’s what Martyr proves.

        The EF Mass–which is still in valid use in the RCC–is about 1,400 years old.

        Actually, the EF stands for “extraordinary form”. That term comes from Benedict XVI referring to the 1962 form of the mass, “As for the use of the 1962 Missal as a Forma extraordinaria of the liturgy of the Mass, I would like to draw attention to the fact that this Missal was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted. (link). So unless you consider just about to turn 50 as “around 1400 years” I think you need to stop with the kool-aide.

        As for questions 1 and 2

        1) Your first picture is I think supposed to be a priestly sacrifice, though it is wrong in a lot of respect. But ignoring that, the Jewish sacrificial cult was never part of weekly worship. That was the distinction between the temple and synagogues. There is no reason the weekly rite, even if you were going to assume some sort of replacement theology — which Pentecostals reject — would have anything to do with the sacrificial system. I don’t have a problem with Christians rethinking the eucharist the center of Christian worship.

        As an aside though, eucharist worship as a (or the) core rite of Christian life does go back at least to the first century so your historical counter argument is on solid ground here. Most likely the early Montanists also practiced a eucharistic rite regularly in their worship.

        2) I don’t see a monolithic rite as more inclusive than rites which bring the culture to the worshipper. This is analogous to the argument for having the bible in the vernacular, the vulgar tongue of the worshipper, and not Latin, the proper language of religion. Most people, Catholics included, don’t understand the symbolis in the mass. Most Pentecostals, do understand the symbols in their worship.

        I like the mystical, not everyone agrees, and I think they are fully entitled to have different taste.

        1. “a structure for Christian corporate worship” = definition of liturgy (this structure resembles the Mass)

          “He never calls this a liturgy”

          He doesn’t have to because what you are describing is the definition of liturgy.

          The 1962 Missal is a version of the Mass that was used for 1400 years. Let’s lay off the kool-aide comments which get us nowhere.

          1. Good.
          2. Is like…”Most people don’t understand the symbols in a hospital, but my kids know the symbols in their bedroom.”

          The Catholic Church affirms the mystical.

          1. The claim that the EF (Tridentine Mass–setting aside the SSPX issue) was in use for 1,400 years is connected to it being tied to the reforms of Pope St. Gregory (thus Gregorian and Tridentine are used interchangeably at times). Thus, more or less, the Tridentine Mass was in use for 1,400 years.

          2. “a structure for Christian corporate worship” = definition of liturgy (this structure resembles the Mass)

            Well if that is the case then most Protestants are fully compliant with Justin Martyr’s second century liturgy. The Catholic church however, doesn’t use that definition they define a liturgy as “the whole complex of official services, all the rites, ceremonies, prayers, and sacraments” in which case Martyr doesn’t come close to providing a liturgy. This is the distinction between a list of rooms in a house and a blueprint. Moreover Martyr’s list does not agree entirely with the EF Mass, if you are going to continue to claim the EF is in some sense ancient.

            Worse for your argument is this, what Justin Martyr’s structure is fully consistent with are Eastern Rite liturgies. That is Martyr supports the charge that the West is a bunch of innovations not part of apostolic community, i.e far more evidence for Orthodoxy than Catholicism.

            The 1962 Missal is a version of the Mass that was used for 1400 years.

            First off that’s not what you had originally said, and then where are you getting 1400 from? I’m going to argue the 1962 missal is a version of of the 1570 mass. Further let me just point out the obvious.

            You have heard of the traditional groups SSPX and SSPV. One of the key reason those two popes get picked is to show the approval of the work they did on the mass. Pius X did restructuring, and issued a bull divino afflatu which kept this going after his death. Pius V chaired the group that wrote the Tridentine Mass. In 1563 the Council or Trent ordered the creation of a standard mass because there wasn’t one, local groups had tremendous variety in particular the Gallican Rite was still in use in the alps. In 1570 the new mass was published and Quo Primum was what standardized it, with exceptions.

            There are two things I can think of that are 1400 years old.

            1) The oldest rite we actually do have. But that is a a Mozarabic Rite, not a Roman Rite.

            2) The order from Charlemagne that the Roman Rite is to replace the Gallican Rite. That is the point at which the Roman Rite became official policy (though not followed) in the West. We don’t however know what the Roman Rite looked like at the time. We know pieces of it survived into the Roman Rites we do have but those vary from each other.

            In theory I can draw a line of continuous changing rites that get you to the rock concert Pentecostal back to some pre-Tridentine mass. The only thing you can claim is:

            a) Your changes are slower.
            b) You changes are thought through more carefully.

            What isn’t true though is that your worship is some sort of unchanging rite going back to the apostles. Your churches and their’s have a different character. Your church looks for some sort of authoritative rite, that can be applied globally, it does after all call itself the Catholic Church. Their churches experiment and see what works and what doesn’t. It is meant to be applied locally and only for a short period of time, further it is meant to be applied within a context of many churches which made different choices.

            Let’s lay off the kool-aide comments which get us nowhere.

            “schtick is primitivism” and “rabbit hole” does get us somewhere?

            I’d be happy to avoid insulting comments asides though going forward.

      2. Replying up a level

        The claim that the EF (Tridentine Mass–setting aside the SSPX issue) was in use for 1,400 years is connected to it being tied to the reforms of Pope St. Gregory (thus Gregorian and Tridentine are used interchangeably at times). Thus, more or less, the Tridentine Mass was in use for 1,400 years.

        Well thank you for telling me where you are getting 1400 from.

        Gregory changed the order of a few things in some liturgy that probably was but may not even have been Roman Rite. There is nothing different about the types of reforms Gregory was doing than the dozens of changes popes made to the post 1570 rite.

        I agree the word Gregorian is used to refer to the Tridentine masses. The reason actually gets us to the classic indulgences issue. There is a bit of superstition / doctrine that has fallen out of favor, that comes from Gregory that dedicating 30 masses in a row in honor of a soul in purgatory will earn their release. There were called “Gregorian masses” and then there was confusion, since quite often Tridentine masses were also Gregorian masses. Some monasteries still sell their masses, i.e. you buy 30 mass series….

        But historically no, the mass does not date in any meaningful sense to Gregory. There are Roman Rite masses which predate him, and after him the Rite continued to change, and it is possible that he had nothing at all to do with the Roman Rite.

  11. Despite appearances to the contrary, I am actually on the same page as you for much of this discussion. However, there are a few things that you’ve said which don’t sit right with me and a few areas where I’d appreciate some clarification.

    What is the context of this apologia? The Mass? A parish-organized CAFE course? A private gathering in a home? The setting makes the world of difference.

    Do you still play contemporary Christian music on your guitar at home? I do, usually prior to Evening or Night Prayer. Is this okay? What about if I have a few friends over? Basically, how large does the group have to become or how official does the gathering have to be before this kind of music becomes unacceptable?

    In response to Question #1, you’re right, there’s a disconnect. A congregation singing God’s praises with drums and stringed instruments is not the same as the Sacrifice of the Mass…but it’s not meant to be.

    You appear to set the Eucharistic Liturgy in opposition against contemporary music, but I don’t understand why. In Devin’s original post he wasn’t suggesting that we replace the Mass, he was suggesting an additional gathering outside of it. This is why I think Question #2 is fairly irrelevant – if some people don’t like that kind of music then they don’t have to come to that gathering.

    …and if you don’t like the traditional music for the Mass…well…just suck it up…it’ll do your soul some good 😉

    How does a “praise and worship” music gathering compete with the Eucharist or the Mass any more than a rosary circle?

    1. The context is public worship (e.g., the picture Devin put up for the post I used above). I’m with you. I am a product of my times. I play guitar (Taylor 410ce). I enjoy using that instrument to praise him in my personal prayer life (so does my priest). I’m open to it in small groups. I don’t like the big production that is meant to be the end-all-be-all (again, see pic). My friend described it as the pep rally and the Mass as the football game. As long as we don’t learn to like pep rally’s more than football games, I’m good. Some pep rally’s are not compatible with football games. Also, we’ve got to remember we are football players not cheerleaders. : ) I would want to be careful about the music. So much of the music is not Catholic, and by that I mean that it does not promote a Eucharistic centered way of life, does not possess the fullness of truth, etc.

      Question #2 is very relevant when “praise and worship” is considered worship. Worshiping who? God? How? Why? Does not worship=sacrifice in the Biblical sense of worship? The only worship that is acceptable to God is the sacrifice of His son offered in the Mass. We must unite ourselves with that Sacrifice. Lastly, saying “if some people don’t like that kind of music then they don’t have to come to that gathering” seems to miss pastoral and catechetical imperatives. Again, when does this end? Who gets excluded? Do you do a different “style” every week?

      1. I’m with all the way up until “The only worship that is acceptable to God is the sacrifice of His son offered in the Mass”. Now, before you gather a posse to assemble firewood, let me quote St. Paul in my defense:

        “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” – Romans 12:1-2

        I completely agree that “We must unite ourselves with that Sacrifice [of Christ]”. It is only through Him, with Him and in Him that anything we do has any eternal value. I just want to make the point that the “Source and Summit” isn’t the entirety of the mountain.

        The Rosary Circle isn’t in competition with the Mass, it should flow from it and point towards it.

        Careful about music, pep rally vs football game…yup, I’m on board with all of this…

        My point about don’t-come-if -you-don’t-want-to is to simply emphasize that P&W music is a *particular* expression of the Faith and is not required of every single Catholic (just like many other devotions).

        Let’s say I don’t like Gregorian Chant. If my parish has a group who sings Gregorian Chant on Saturday afternoons I’m not going to go! I’m not going to feel excluded from that group because that music doesn’t do anything for me. I will stay at home and listen to my Ambrosian Chant CDs thank-you-very-much! 😉

  12. My RCIA instructor from 11 years back posted this on my facebook link:

    “There are some good points on both sides. Why? Because both are right. Praise & worship is a form of modern private devotion. It is the specific charism of private devotions to inculturation the religious sensibilities of a particular people and to incite religious sentiment. (see Pius XII Mediator Dei on this point). The rebuttal is also correct as it deals with the proper end of liturgical worship, which is the glory of God and the salvation of the world. Two different ends call for two different means. The error lies in confusing the two. ”

    Here’s a link to Mediator Dei:

    So it seems like the question is whether Catholics could get together in the parish hall, say, and sing praise songs together. Is that a private devotion done in a group or considered public worship that requires the guidelines of liturgical and sacred music?

      1. Here’s a follow-up too with regard to my above question:

        “I would propose that Catholics singing music together outside the liturgy is like Catholics praying the rosary together – even though it is done collectively, it is still “private” in that it is the collective action of each person, not the prayer of the Church, which takes place in the Liturgy. Conversely, a priest saying Mass alone in the chapel or with only a server is the Church’s public worship, not a private action.”

        Any thoughts from Brent or others?

        1. I think what you are saying can be true. We should be careful. Other churches do not have “rosary circle” as a replacement for the Mass. Other churches do have “praise and worship” as a replacement for the Mass. It seems like a possible good for a catechized Catholic, but I’m wondering if it might be confusing for an un-catechized Catholic. What happens if they develop a preference for the P&W over the Mass? (btw, this would present the same problem for the Rosary Circle)

          1. Then that is a Catechesis issue. Given the rough description Devin gave for his initial idea, this issue could be solved *through* these “Praise and Worship” meetings in the sermon portion of the evening. In fact, teaching about the Mass outside of the Sunday Liturgy would help to highlight its unique character.

            (Of course, all of what I’m saying only applies if it’s “done right”)

            1. This is precisely the problem I have primarily thought of when thinking about this issue. An outreach program with such p&w could be useful as an “entry way” but how do you keep it from potentially pulling Catholics away from mass rather than as a tool for new education or further development?

  13. Brent,

    I get all that. I really do. I just think there is still a problem. There is something truly good about what protestants do. It is not so good that we should discard liturgy in favor of it. But it s good. It moves people. They connect with God. Sure it can be a false Jesus but it is not always. Sometimes it is a really beautiful thing.

    My thinking is the Catholic answer is often to reject the either/or and embrace the both/and. Why not here? Why not have black gospel music and authentic liturgy? We should not present it as the normative church experience. We should do it just because some people experience God through it. People who would not experience God through a traditional liturgy and maybe not any other way. The same can be said about anybody else’s favorite music. We need to present the gospel in as many ways as we can. Not as a rebellion against liturgy but as something completely different.

    That is one reason why so many protestants see Catholic spirituality as being dead. They don’t see the word becoming flesh in Catholicism. They don’t see beautiful art flowing from Catholics the way it should. Catholics don’t produce nearly as much religious themed art and they don’t buy nearly as much either. The market is pathetic compared to what is there for protestants. We can be high and mighty and say it is because we have reserved Sunday morning for something far holier. That is part of it. But how much of it is just because Catholics are simply not expressing any faith experience because many of them don’t have much of a faith experience?

    1. “Why not have black gospel music and authentic liturgy?”

      I was once a member at a predominantly African American parish and I don’t think there is anything wrong with this. The difference between say black gospel music and contemporary christian music (CCM) is that Black gospel has a direct connection to what a lot of people would consider sacred music “negro spirituals” which has a distinct tradition to it. Of course most American music has at least part of it’s genesis in those same spirituals (which is the reason why Rock n Roll speaks so well IMO) but there are to many degrees of separation to be used in worship.

    2. Catholics don’t produce nearly as much religious themed art and they don’t buy nearly as much either. The market is pathetic compared to what is there for protestants.

      Randy I gotta admit you got me there.

      Here is how I see it. Catholic religious art is an enormous collection of great works encompassing say roughly two thirds or more of all art produced by western culture between the fourth century and sixteenth century. And for the two centuries before that and the four after it still a pretty good sized chunk.

      Conversely, one of the core ideas of Protestantism was the destruction of the art and a rejection of Catholic iconography, Beeldenstorm literally means “statue storm” the deliberate destruction of massive quantities of church art. And as I see it, the art that replaced these Catholic treasures was junk like Cranach’s Last Supper which portrayed the apostles in the garb of reformers.

      Even worse, the counter reformation was anti-art, as it had to respond to charges of idolatry and immorality in Catholic art. If anything the Reformation is probably the single thing most responsible for Christian art not being a dominant form today. But certainly if I had to choose who produces more and better religious art I’m hard pressed to see how you can even compare these two meta-denominations.

      So what did you mean?

    3. “It moves people. They connect with God.”

      Sure. Maybe. I also think they connect with themselves a lot of time or connect with their neighbors like you would at a Springsteen concert.

      “That is one reason why so many protestants see Catholic spirituality as being dead. They don’t see the word becoming flesh in Catholicism.”

      I rode the train to the top of (this type of) Protestant spirituality. I disagree. If we thought that about Catholics, we did so because we were ignorant of the hospitals and schools in our neighborhoods. Do you know how hard it was to get a consistent “prayer-team” together? Have you seen the army of daily Mass attendees in the Catholic Church? It is incredible–and nobody asked them to sign up. Pretty vibrant if you ask me.

      “People who would not experience God through a traditional liturgy and maybe not any other way. ”

      Comment: This is a huge impediment to our reunion with our Eastern brothers and sisters. Until we understand that the liturgy comes from God and is not just about taste (and that is going to take some serious re-claiming of our liturgical traditions), they just won’t take us seriously (and shouldn’t on this point). Do you think the EO are considering a “R&B” divine liturgy? No way, because they could care less if people don’t “experience God” in it. Not because they don’t care about people, but for the same reason you wouldn’t change the Bible if people “didn’t get it”. The point is the worship God. Here is a quote from then Cardinal Ratzinger:

      “The great­ness of the liturgy depends—we shall have to repeat this frequently—on its unspontaneity (Unbeliebigkeit)…. Only respect for the liturgy’s fundamental unspontaneity and pre-existing identity can give us what we hope for: the feast in which the great reality comes to us that we ourselves do not manufacture but receive as a gift. This means that “creativity” cannot be an authentic category for matters liturgical. In any case, this is a word that developed within the Marxist world view. Creativity means that in a universe that in itself is meaningless and came into existence through blind evolution, man can creatively fashion a new and better world. Modern theo­ries of art think in terms of a nihilistic kind of creativity. Art is not meant to copy anything. Artistic creativity is under the free mastery of man, without being bound by norms or goals and subject to no questions of meaning. It may be that in such visions a cry for freedom is to be heard, a cry that in a world totally in the control of technology becomes a cry for help. Seen in this way, art appears as the final refuge of freedom. True, art has something to do with freedom, but freedom understood in the way we have been describing is empty. It is not redemptive, but makes despair sound like the last word of human existence. This kind of creativity has no place within the liturgy. The life of the liturgy does not come from what dawns upon the minds of individuals and plan­ning groups. On the contrary, it is God’s descent upon our world, the source of real liberation. He alone can open the door to freedom. The more priests and faithful humbly surrender themselves to this descent of God, the more “new” the liturgy will constantly be, and the more true and personal it becomes. Yes, the liturgy becomes personal, true, and new, not through tomfoolery and ba­nal experiments with the words, but through a coura­geous entry into the great reality that through the rite is always ahead of us and can never quite be overtaken. The Spirit of the Liturgy

      1. You are still not understanding me. When I say I want both/and I am not saying I want both/and in the same time and place. I am not saying we should try and do a good liturgy and incorporate black gospel music. What I am saying is we can’t just ditch black gospel music (and every other form of art). We need to find a place for it in Catholic spirituality. Why? Precisely because it touches unchurched people. It speaks the truth of God in the language of the culture. That could be a definition of Catholic art.

        So I agree with you about liturgy. The trouble is what we remove from protestant worship is something that is doing real good. We can get it out of our liturgy but we can’t just leave it to the protestants. We need to be the fullness of Christianity. That means Catholicism can’t depend on protestantism to fill the holes in it. Catholics copying protestant liturgy are trying to fill those holes. You rightly point out they are doing it wrong. But how do we do it right? To me they are related questions. If you are dealing with Catholics who love contemporary music you want to tell them we are closing this door but opening a window somewhere. The same will be true of protestants. You can have your music and your preaching and whatever else. Just not at mass. That is a lot easier to take then just telling them to commit artistic suicide. Sure they should be willing to sacrifice anything and everything for the church. Still we don’t want to tie great burdens on the backs of the faithful when it can be avoided.

        1. “We can get it out of our liturgy but we can’t just leave it to the protestants. We need to be the fullness of Christianity. That means Catholicism can’t depend on protestantism to fill the holes in it. ”

          Exactly. I’ve known quite a few of my Catholic friends to occasionally sneak into a Protestant church for a bit of contemporary praise music. Fortunately, where I live in the States there’s a good community of musicians and those who enjoy this kind of music so every few months we do breakfast “Bagels and Praise” at someone’s house, which usually lasts well into the night 🙂

          “But how do we do it right? ”

          I think this is a really important question. I don’t think we have to throw the baby out with the baptismal font. Can we extract *some* elements and do them even better?

        2. “We need to find a place for it in Catholic spirituality. Why? Precisely because it touches unchurched people. It speaks the truth of God in the language of the culture. That could be a definition of Catholic art.”

          I think it speaks entertainment in the language of God.

          “The trouble is what we remove from protestant worship is something that is doing real good. . We can get it out of our liturgy but…”

          How are you measuring this “real good”? (I’m trying to understand) Are you implying that what we get out of the liturgy is the same “it” in the “praise and worship” service?

          “That means Catholicism can’t depend on protestantism to fill the holes in it.”

          The point of my post is that it creates new ones. A generation that comes to God through music because it is appealing to their tastes will in a generation find God passe. That is the crises striking the “low-church” world right now. In that world, Christianity will always have to serve the ever changing tastes of culture. Instead, I recommend Christianity (and I see Catholicism doing this) calling man out of the “hamster-wheel” of relevance and to the plane of existence that is eternal and timeless.

          “Catholics copying protestant liturgy are trying to fill those holes.”

          There are no holes because they have no liturgies (in the proper sense–not in the generic sense of the term). There are no holes because the Catholic Church possesses the fullness of Truth entrusted to Her by Our Lord and protected by the Holy Spirit. The low-church Protestant service is a bastardized version of the Mass. It flips our liturgy (liturgy in general) on its head. You get praise and worship first (sans Eucharist), then you get preaching. The pulpit is at the center of the altar-less sanctuary for a reason. Without the Eucharist, all you get is man attempting to get to God on his own (I know I labored and labored in that world for over 20 years). Their “liturgy” is a tradition of men. The Church does not believe in traditions of men because they make the Word of God (both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition) of no effect.

          “But how do we do it right?”

          We don’t do it and we call people back to the thing that Christ gave us, and remind them that they need salvation not entertainment. Christianity is not a popularity contest.

          “That is a lot easier to take then just telling them to commit artistic suicide.”

          I agree in that Christians should make good music. Please, do it. I will tell you, this artist was willing to lay down his axe so he could learn to worship God in spirit and truth. I wanted to bring God Able’s sacrifice, not Cain’s.

          “Still we don’t want to tie great burdens on the backs of the faithful when it can be avoided.”

          I agree. I’m all for Audrey Assad and Matt Maher and Leeland concerts. But let us not pretend we are doing what the Protestants are doing. Let’s teach our Protestant brothers and sisters how to enjoy music together, good music, that glorifies God. In fact, they may do that better than us. However, let’s teach them how to worship. Why? Because our worship comes from the Lord himself and is not a tradition of men.

          1. I am surprised that you see so little good done by protestants. Having done and received ministry as a protestant for so many years I do see a lot of good there. Good things that are not happening in Catholic parishes nearly as often. If your ministry as a protestant was producing nothing but evil results then I guess that makes leaving it easy. I find it hard to believe but maybe that is the case for you. It was not for me. For me there is a big question as to how that would work if all protestants became Catholic. How would the people being drawn to Jesus by protestant ministry now be drawn to Catholicism? It would not be at a mass. OK. But what would it look like? I think if protestants could see the outlines of than then becoming Catholic would be easier for them to imagine.

            The trouble with liturgies is that people are trying to do two things. They are trying to reach people and they are trying to worship God. Those two acts need to be separated. But they both must happen. The people trying to make liturgies funkier are trying to do something valid. I get where they are coming from. If we do something along the lines of a new evangelization then not doing it in mass will be much easier for them to accept.

            1. I’m not sure what you are talking about. I think I did do a lot of good things. I think Protestants do a lot of good things. Entertainment as worship is not one of them. Yet, God can use anything for those ignorant of His way. God can use an ass. That does not mean we should be asses. : )

              The Mass is not meant to reach people. It is meant for Christians to worship God. We reach people by being good friends (loving our brother) and knowing our faith (loving God). But, I think you are right. We could sponsor more concert like events to bring people onto parish grounds. We can learn a lot from our separated brothers and sisters about how to reach out to American culture and create safe spaces to have conversations. Our Holy Father has asked for so much: kind of a Solomon’s porch.

              So again, I’m not sure what you are talking about. My critique is about the nature of Protestant p&w not the good or evil effect. In this case, the end definitely does not justify the means.

  14. I think it is great to ask these questions. I am not Catholic, however I think the emotive, big stage, rocking, modern ‘worship’ is not necessarily God honouring or what He would want us to do as a ‘standard’ in regular service. So I appreciate the discussion.

    I was wondering though, seen as we all just get in to opinions on it therefore we will ALWAYS disagree… what do we base it on? A bit of tradition, the scripture? Does God tell us how to worship in scripture? maybe you could share some on this as There was no clear instruction quoted from your* scripture or your tradition outlined in this post and I am curious to read a post maybe more on that listing of the facts/instructions that you refer to… would that be possible in the future or maybe you could point me to a resource or a scripture reference? Or does He leave it up to us to decide

    (*when I say your scripture, I do so as I am referring to the Catholic Cannon, I have asked Devin this before – answers in your cannon not an argument again about the protestant cannon…I want to know from your deemed correct scripture – imagine I am a person with no preconceived notions or education on the matter looking solely for an answer to point me in the right direction here and I need it to have weight to be convinced – ok not much imagination needed there :P)

    I think we so often put worship in to classifying categories – choosing church denomination by musical preference and so we all then miss it in a way. We should be able to learn from what each other do provided it has root in the Lord and pleases Him, as you say….we are to conform to Him not make Him conform to our tastes(I totally agree with you) and then hope He likes how we have worshipped Him when we are really lifting ourselves higher not Him!

    1. Lisa,

      Here’s also a list of Church documents on sacred music:

      But let’s say we decide to “go off the Scriptures alone” to determine music. That can and has led to a wide (and sometimes wild) variation in what music different Christian groups deem acceptable.

      Probably the most famous are the churches of Christ denomination that were certain that the early Church sang everything a capella, based on their reading of the few verses of Scripture that mention singing. Later a terrible split occurred in their denomination when one group wanted to introduce the organ or piano.

      So the fact is that there’s not much in the New Testament about how the liturgy (“Sunday service”) should be done, what music should (or should not be) used, etc.

  15. Thanks so much for this great article. As a former praise and worship musician, I am in complete agreement. I also like the point you make about congregation members who feel isolated during rock music at Mass. So often I think there is the assumption that pop and rock music make worship more inclusive, but this is of course not always the case. God bless you.

      1. You mean my blog? If so, is she the wonderful lady who posted the comment about praying before baking bread and gave us the link to the awesome book we just got in the mail? If so please give her our thanks! Nice to “meet” you guys.

  16. Brent,
    Love what you have to say. I’m searching for some answers for my own parish. I’ve been doing music ministry for years and LOVE singing with a solo instrument (piano mostly). My sisters and I lead music at the “youth Mass”–yes, I dislike that name as it seems to alienate older parishioners.

    Here’s the rub:
    1. Our pastor is a lovely man but really a hippie at heart. He loves any and all contemporary music. My sisters and I grew up in an OCP kind of world…not a P&W five-piece band parish. We feel that we are pressured to do more P&W music at the “youth Mass” (“Here I Am to Worship” “We Fall Down” “You are My All in All” etc) or we’ll get booted and replaced by the pastor’s sister who seems to be an “anything goes” kind of gal. Advice on how to approach discussing liturgical music choices and the Church’s rubrics on such?
    2. We like to do the “Respond and Acclaim” psalms and Gospel Acclamations because they are more chant-like and less show-boaty. They are simple and are in the Missalettes! Sure, you CAN replace the psalms with the fancier arrangements, but should you??? Every Sunday???
    3. I have noticed in the OCP planning guides that they have replaced the word “hymn” with “chant” for the entrance, etc. Pastor’s sister seems to think that it doesn’t mean anything.
    4. Our pastor dislikes doing songs in Latin because he says no one understands what the words say. Even the “Pange Lingua” he has asked us to do in English. Suggestions???
    5. Pastor’s sister likes to put kids with talent up in front of the church to do solo pieces during offertory and second communion songs. Feels like a concert. Thoughts on how to discuss this new trend??

    Thank you!!!

  17. Great job Brent. I cant wait for the Called to Communion article.

    You said: “All of these observations were made by me at least 3-4 years before I was Catholic.”

    I made these observations as a pentecostal teen and then in an Assemblies Bible College (NCBC). P&W is a fickle master. It can give you a great spiritual high… and it can drop you. ANd when you dont like the music anymore and arent feeling anything, you will feel like you are not as spiritual, or something is wrong. Really all that is wrong is that the musical equivalent of Mountain Dew is being poured down your throught each Sunday (or each day at Chapel in my case at college) and it gets sickening after a while. When I returned to regular church attendance after a few years of after college disillusionment, I knew I couldnt stomach P & W. I was lucky enough that the PCA church I found just hapened to forbid it. I asked the elders why, and they said they had no reason, but would never allow it, and it wasnt up for discussion. They took it to be self -evidently not appropriate. There is a large contingent in conservative Reformed circles that is incredibly “anti” P&W. So yes, even many Protestants are seeing the light.
    What I liked the most about your post was your pointing out that this is not a disagreement about taste, yet P&W is all about taste. It is invariably the kind of music that people either love or hate. And to the people who hate it, it can be devastating to be made to sit through it.
    Sacred music on the other hand is not about our taste, which is why it is sacred.

  18. Hello Brent,
    After swimming through your great post and half the combox posts, and then wading through the remainder of commentary, it occured to me that the discourse language about both the media and the message could be characterized as “archetypal.” And there is certainly plenty of grist to mill within that context.
    However, it is my experience that avoidance of such specificity when illustrating LARGE issues of worship practice proves that discretion is the better part of valor.
    Assigning all music popularly employed in American RC Masses from the seventies onward as “banal,” “sacro-pop” or “praise and worship” inconveniences a cogent discussion rather than bolsters it. I am likewise convinced that using the word “guitar” or “piano” as a shibboleth detracts from discussing the heart of the efficacy of music’s role within the worship experience. And, despite my own personal tastes and affiliations, and many mistakes made and lessons learned over four decades as a professional musician in the Church, the prevailing documents governing “music’s role” discourage applying absolutes in our dealings and doings, and encourage us to learn how to discipline ourselves within the framework called “the mind of the Church.” Hence, we have the never-ending connundrum (such as found in the GIRM) over “options.”
    As a very trite example of that, one comment mentioned OCP’s adjustment of the term “gathering or entrance SONG” to “CHANT.” I chuckled when I first noticed that as it immediately occured to me that was some sort of backhanded method that OCP could acknowledge the revised translation of the English GIRM dubbing the music of the three processions as exemplifying the term “cantus” (from the original IGRM) as whatever-the-heck you sing at the Entrance is a “chant.” It’s as if by this slight adjustment one could say (cynically) “Hey, we’re in compliance with the GIRM! Totally down with it.”
    OTOH, there is specificity in the sequence of legislative documents, particularly since P12’s motu, “Tra le…”, namely the FIRST place that (Gregorian, Ambrosian, Mozarabic, Anglican) chant should be afforded within the context of liturgy, and the somewhat less specific endorsement of (presumably “classic”) polyphony. And other portions exhort new compositions to be mindful, or possess inherant/genetic traits of those forms as inspiration or need motivates composer and performer. The rub is, and always has and will be, who arbitrates this discipline where the rubber meets the road?
    It ain’t us in blogdom. And as much joy as it might provide the “multis” it doesn’t reside in the cathedra of the Holy See. If it does reside geographically anywhere, that would be in the ecclesial authority of each bishop, and ideally redown unto his vicars in the parishes. So, it’s been quite messy for quite some time, and not just in all things musical, though “Music Wars” are the most visceral and destructive it seems.
    I’ll wrap here with a couple of examples of avoiding archetypes. While discerning new Mass settings for MR3, no one was more surprised than I at how Tom Booth’s (P&W inspired) Mass of St. Ann was not only defendable, but met the real “three judgments” of “sacred, beautiful and universal.” We’ve been living with it since September as delivered by a variety of musical media formations, and to these ears it has more virtue in this moment in time than does the pro-forma Mass of Creation (which I hope no one categorized as P&W!) On the other hand, so many folks have decried the use of Gregorian Missa XV as the motivic source for the ICEL English Chant Mass as “boring” at best, have only looked at it, or sung it from a two-dimensional attitude.
    Rather than archetypes as the unit of measurement, I’d suggest “humility.”

      1. Call me an archetypist in the Arinzian tradition. : )

        Sum: it is more easy to deflect criticism if one speaks in nuances than if one discusses the topic in a broad, sweeping way. Knock down a door, but don’t talk about the house. No one shoots you for breaking a window with a football, but they will get angry if you recommend a wrecking ball.

        But humility and truth are compatible. Tact included. Criticism understood.

        I agree in a lot of ways, and I appreciate your technical contribution to this discussion (which I could not have given). I hope you did not miss my point about the 70’s hymns. It was not about whether or not they are “banal” or not, it was about whether or not one can ever break out of the “hamster-wheel” of relevance talking about how passe or banal hymns are from the 70’s to begin with (which the effect of that comment would be the same in the Baptist church). Lastly and more to the point of this post, this reflection was not a discussion about what type of music should be in the Mass (which is interesting). It was about creating some kind of quasi-Catholic “P&W” service–which ultimately brings up the very notion of “what is worship”–which is theological in nature. That, the theology of the “P&W” is what I had as my object. I’m sorry my thesis was so confused.


  19. The skinny version is that “worship” is not about our tastes, but just the opposite.

    Thanks for recognizing that the “tastes and preferences” argument is absolutely irrelevant to the discussion. What IS relevant are the instructions from Rome on “sacred music” (not hymnody) which specify “Beauty, Holiness, and Universality” as the criteria by which such music MUST be measured.

  20. To most of which the answer is “So What?”

    Rome has the authority to define her rites. They changed over centuries. End of story.

    And as Pius XII remarked, ‘antiquanarianism’ is not the objective of liturgical reform.

  21. Very interesting and insightful post. I am a Protestant studying at Franciscan University, where I have essentially been introduced to the Catholic faith.

    I want to put a question to you. Much of what you said resonates with me; I hate consumerist syncretism in the church with a passion. It’s so empty. And I feel this is what you are contrasting with the liturgical tradition of the Catholic Church — with good reason, might I add.

    But is it quite fair to make a sweeping condemnation of all praise and worship music? I grant that the origin began in pop culture, but music can be reappropriated from less-than-holy origins. There are times that certain music is inappropriate (say “Waves of Mercy” during communion or the processional), but is that to say it’s always wrong? Granted, the Mass is a very specific liturgical setting, that must be ordered and, yes, spiritually formative. There is a place for regulation of music in the liturgy; it’s necessary.

    (Aaand here comes one really long paragraph — bear with me. But you’re a philosopher, so surely you’ve read longer–and denser–things…hehe)

    I think the problems you are noticing do not first spring from praise and worship. They begin much deeper, in a culture of syncretism with the secular that is, indeed, detrimental to Christians’ spiritual growth. Praise and worship as a style may have grown out of, or alongside, that culture, but it is not reducible to it. Just as meat sacrificed to idols can still be eaten beneficially by the Christian who understands what is and is not appropriate, so I would argue that some of the elements that have arisen in the context of praise and worship can be reappropriated, purified if you will, within a healthy context. This of course means that certain songs are out altogether in any setting; and that others are fine but not for the liturgy. But this also means that some can be made appropriate in the liturgy, if they can be integrated as part of it. I serve in the music ministry at Franciscan University for daily Mass, and have seen contemporary songs used alongside hymns and chant in ways conducive to entering more fully into the Mass. No, feeling does not determine what is and is not appropriate. Yet my experience tells me that praise and worship can be either detrimental or edifying. In itself, it is neither good nor evil: it falls on the ministers of music, and the priests, and the whole Church authority structure, to see to it that the Mass is *served by* the music rather than *serving* the music. Shouldn’t that be the primary focus, with choice of music flowing from that? This, to me, is a crucial distinction to make: the point is not that praise and worship is all bad, but that the Mass and the liturgy is good, and holy. It does not bear adulteration with the secular; but sometimes what arose in the secular can be used for sacred purposes, sanctified so that it in fact does serve at Christ’s altar. This, in fact, is in keeping with the Catholic understanding of Creation as the handiwork of God, and with the ancient Jewish understanding of the Cosmos as a macro-temple. In other words, we must distinguish between the sacred and the secular, and never must the sacred be adulterated to the secular; but we must also remember that all good things in Creation, music included, can be separated from their profane context and sanctified for the service of the sacred. I would argue that praise and worship, when divorced from its secularized context, can be so appropriated–under proper supervision, with caution.

    Lastly, the beginnings of a movement do not always affect latecomers. I believe that the Christian [esp. Catholic], properly catechized and educated liturgically, can use praise and worship music in a way that is edifying and upbuilding, and in conformity with the Catholic Church. If such music is kept subservient to a context which saturates the faithful with the sacraments and the liturgy (and preferably ancient forms of worship too) it, too, can stand in stark contrast to the culture with which it developed. Again, I have seen it done many times, over against contemporary low-church evangelicalism’s use of the same music. Christ came to sanctify all that is good, even what was once unclean: and I believe that can also apply to praise and worship music.

    So that is my more-than-two-cents’-worth. I know, I know, I don’t sound exactly Protestant…I feel less and less like one. And sorry it was so long.

    1. Dear Noelle,

      But is it quite fair to make a sweeping condemnation of all praise and worship music?

      I never condemned all praise and worship. I evinced my reasons for apposing a “praise and worship service” — in the evango-tainment tradition — as some kind of alternative worship experience.

      I think the problems you are noticing do not first spring from praise and worship. They begin much deeper, in a culture of syncretism with the secular that is, indeed, detrimental to Christians’ spiritual growth.

      I agree. We might even say that at the root of the syncretism is a spiritual relativism born of ecclesial relativism.

      I believe that the Christian [esp. Catholic], properly catechized and educated liturgically, can use praise and worship music in a way that is edifying and upbuilding, and in conformity with the Catholic Church.

      I agree! I hope to do that in my own life.

      Thanks for the great comment.

      Peace to you on your journey,


  22. I have been really interested reading this dialog. And I think people often lump the type of music we label as praise and worship to concerts. Correct? When you say praise and worship your mind jumps to Matt Maher, Hillsong United, Audrey Assad, etc. and I think a very important distinction to make is that praise and worship can be done well…and can be done horribly. As soon as the music draws attention away from the Mass and to itself in a self glorifying way, then the music does not serve its purpose as liturgical music, and I don’t think this includes people that are distracted by the style of music that they don’t like. I’ve led music at and participated in many Masses where contemporary praise and worship music and/or a mix of familiar hymns done in a contemporary style were used throughout liturgy where they were relevant to the readings, they fit the tone of each part of the Mass (entrance and recessional songs were more upbeat and communion songs were more reflective). I’ve seen it done poorly where the leader of music plays more like a concert and it’s very distracting. Contemporary music =/= rock show. Yes, there can be praise and worship gatherings outside of the Liturgy, but if you want to go to those more than the Mass, you’ve got to reevaluate your views. In developing my like of praise and worship and the charismatic things that are normally attached to it, my love for Christ truly present in the Eucharist has grown immensely. But I have been told how to properly lead worship and lead music in Liturgy whereas many have not. And I think that is where a lot of the issue lies. Because think about it, most of the hymns that we know are from the 70s and people still like them and people dislike them. Music styles will change and that happens. But as long as sacred music is sacred by leading people deeper into the sacrifice of the Mass, then that is what truly matters.

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