There is nothing like taste in music to start a good debate. Taste in music is so subjective and varies from individual to individual. On a recent evening, Pope Francis set off a flurry of publicity after he was caught leaving a record store in downtown Rome. By chance, Javier Martinez-Brocal, a reporter for Rome Reports, spotted and filmed with his phone, Francis leaving the Stereo Sound Record Store carrying a package with a CD in it. The story is that Francis enjoyed browsing at the store in his pre-pope days and had stopped by for a visit and to bless the establishment. The CD he was leaving with was a gift to him.
That set off speculation about Pope Francis’ taste in music. Evidently, Francis is quite a music lover. It began in his youth when he and his mother listened to opera. Francis has a collection of over 1700 CD and even some old vinyl records according to Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture. Cardinal Ravasi is responsible for archiving the pope’s collection and in a press interview shed light on the pope’s music tastes. Not surprisingly Francis’ extensive collection runs towards classical music. Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, and Wagner are among his favorite composers.
Understandably Francis has a taste for tango, since he is Argentinian after all. According to an article by Keara Hanlon in America Media, included in Francis’ collection are works by famous tango composer Astor Piazzolla. Francis had a brush with another tango great. Years ago, when he was a young priest, he administered Viaticum and the Sacrament of the Sick to a great tango composer and singer named Azucena Maizani, as Maizani lay on her deathbed. What is a bit of a surprise is that Francis owns twenty-five Elvis Presley CDs. They aren’t Jailhouse Rock or Hound Dog though. Francis appreciates Elvis’ Gospel Music.
Taste in music is a very thorny subject and causes quite a bit of discussion in Catholic Church music circles too. If you want to stir up contention all you have to do is bring up the subject of church music. There are those who like the post-Vatican II Folk Masses and those who abhor them. Others love Gregorian Chant and some call it moaning.
Jessica Carney, writing in America Magazine suggested that Catholics use three criteria developed by St. Thomas Aquinas when evaluating the beauty of a piece of music. His first one was integritas or integrity. Does it have wholeness? Is it really what it claims to be? Next is consonantia or harmony. A song might have parts that are great by themselves but don’t work together to make a beautiful whole. The melody might be catchy and singable but the verses are trite and foolish. Third, claritas, or clarity is does the hymn achieve its purpose? Does it bring us closer to God?
Carney goes on to suggest that putting these Thomistic guidelines into practice doesn’t suggest we do away with particular instruments or genre of music. We shouldn’t banish the guitar, after all Silent Night was first played on the guitar, nor chant because it is old. When evaluating a new piece of music, it is important to ask if it is easy enough to sing. Also, worth evaluating is are the words too secular or even heretical? That can creep into some favorites like City of God. Finally, not every piece of music transitions to every instrument well. While my example of Silent Night sounds beautiful on both a guitar or a pipe organ not every composition does transition well.
Music Director Cheryl Duerr and I both like to find some middle ground. I feel if it lifts the soul, it is a good piece of music. If in your travels you discover a piece of music you like, bring it to our attention. We’ll be willing to give it a try. However, I must draw the line at Polka Masses.
Pick up Your Bottle for the Baby Bottle Boomerang
Holy Redeemer is conducting a Baby Bottle Boomerang this month to support A Woman’s Concern - Your Options Medical. This organization provides no-cost life-affirming pregnancy confirmation services to women and couples facing unplanned pregnancies, especially those considering abortion due to a lack of information and support. Please take a baby bottle home to fill with your loose change, cash, or a check. You can return them to church the weekend of February 8/9. Our financial support will help make Your Options Medical’s services available free of cost to those in need of support and guidance in the fight for life! Please make checks payable to “Your Options Medical” if you decide to donate by check.
Commemorate this weekends Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children by participating in this fundraiser. Pro-life Catholics must use both church and their financial resources to aid women facing an unexpected pregnancy and children. The Baby Bottle Boomerang is one way we can do that. We must also support public policy such as the Child Tax Credit that has aided children and their families during the pandemic and has lifted so many out of poverty.
SYNOD NEWS – The Listening Sessions Have Begun
Holy Redeemer’s first Synod Listening Session was held yesterday, January 22nd, and we wish to thank everyone who participated in the excellent discussion. If you have not already signed up to participate in one of the Saturday afternoon sessions please do so as soon as possible. Our next listening session will be conducted on Saturday, February 5th. Subsequent listening sessions will be held on the following dates: February 26th, March 19th, April 2nd, and April 23rd. All listening sessions will begin at 1:00 pm and will be conducted in the parish hall. Sign-up information is available at the back of the church.
Although we would prefer that you participate in the listening sessions in person, since that will allow for more informal discussion regarding your individual needs and your vision of the Church going forward, Synod survey questionnaires are available in the back of the church that you can answer at your convenience and return at a later date.
The Synod called by Pope Francis is intended to inspire people to dream about the Church we are called to be, to make people’s hopes flourish, to stimulate trust, to bind up wounds, to weave new and deeper relationships, to learn from one another, to build bridges, to enlighten minds, warm hearts, and restore strength to our hands for our common mission. We hope you will take this opportunity to participate in the Synod and to share your vision for the church.