Thursday, December 12, 2013

This Isn't Football Music

Have you seen the Bud Light commercial where a guy is watching a football game in a bar and a Paula Cole song, I Don't Want to Wait, is playing in the background? Our fan thinks to himself, "This isn't football music, this is figure skating music." While the commercial, which you can see HERE, ends with our fan superstitiously deciding the song gives luck to his team, the commercial does make a good point - certain music is for certain events.

It's not that our fan doesn't happen to like Paula Cole, it's not a matter of taste, rather it is a matter of propriety, of appropriateness. It simply is objectively true that the Paula Cole song doesn't fit with watching football, it doesn't belong, it is as out of place as wearing a bathing suit to the Opera.

I am struck by the same feeling by the music I hear at Mass (when I attend the Ordinary Form). The music isn't bad, some of the songs I actually quite enjoy and would listen to in the car, but it isn't appropriate for the Mass, not because of my taste, but because of what the Mass is.

If we ever hope to reform the liturgy, especially the music we hear at Mass, we have to move the conversation away from "I like chant and polyphony" vs. "I like Matt Maher," a conversation without resolution as both styles of music can be enjoyable, to "is music x appropriate or inappropriate to be singing at Mass because of what the Mass is." 

We have to break out of the shackles of post-Kantian philosophy, which tells us we cannot know "things in themselves," a philosophy most people don't consciously know but which is behind much of modern relativism and dare to base our liturgical decisions on the essence of the Mass (what the Medievals would call its quiddity - its thatness).

The next time you attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass ask yourself, is this song appropriate to be singing at the foot of the Cross, at Calvary? For that is where we are when we attend Mass. ask yourself, is this song one that gives honor to God alone or does it honor "the people" in the congregation more than Christ?

Here is the song, you can view the commercial that features it online HERE.

What do you think? Does the music you hear at Mass fit the essence of the liturgy or is it "figure skating music?"


  1. Part of the problem might be that the Mass is several things simultaneously. It's a holy sacrifice. It's an act of thanksgiving. It's a communal gathering (although priests can celebrate Mass alone). It's a specific, dedicated time of worship. Different music is appropriate for each of those occasions separately, but it's even more challenging to find music that suits them all simultaneously.

    On top of that, you also have to account for taste. Some people just don't like certain kinds of music, and perhaps they never will. You'll never please everyone all of the time. Mass isn't about being pleased, but we can't control our emotions.

    1. Hi Lindsay,
      Great points. I'd only add that while the Mass is all of those things, the Mass isn't all of those things equally. The Mass can be a communal gathering, but (as you point out) it doesn't have to be. It is an act of thanksgiving and an act of worship, but only because it is a holy sacrifice. In its inner most essence the Mass is the Sacrifice of Christ and that aspect is more important than the other aspects which flow from it because those other aspects depend upon it. It also is the ONLY sacrifice (cf. Heb 10:12-14), but it is not the only communal gathering or means of thanking God.

      You're right, it is challenging to find music that suits the Mass, but I'd suggest that is only because we've ignored the teaching of Vatican 2, which called for chant, polyphony and other sacred music ( which isn't the same as secular-sounding music with mentions of God).

      You're also right, there is no accounting for taste and we'll never please everyone with whatever selection of music we go with, which is why we have to stick to asking what is appropriate and stay away from talking about taste altogether, at least in my opinion. I listen to a lot of different styles of music, rock, rap, etc. but they wouldn't be appropriate for the Mass.

      By the way, I stopped by your blog - I like the idea of "dressing liturgically," very clever!

      Have a blessed Advent!