Poor Taste We Have Always With Us

While waiting to greet our pastor after Mass on Sunday, I overheard an improbable conversation. The enthusiastic tambourine player from our folk group (a fine fellow), caroming off something Fr. had said in his homily, was waxing eloquent about Cardinal Ratzinger's Spirit of the Liturgy, passionately recounting the main themes and telling Fr.
I will give you my copy, you must read it, it will blow your mind.
I wouldn't have thought one could read that book and ever play a tambourine at Mass again, but that got me to thinking about something that's kind of bothered me ever since the Pope was here. Remember the hostile reactions in various quarters to the music for Mass at Nationals Park? I refer not to the mere observation that better choices could have been made, but to accusations that the music was chosen without reference to Benedict's writing, or worse, chosen deliberately to slight and defy the Holy Father. The presumption of bad faith as opposed to bad taste upset me.

I have a good friend who's a priest in the neighboring diocese, Arlington. He used to do a solemn high mass in Latin in the ordinary form with a talented choir each Sunday: Missa Solemnis. This was followed by the folk mass, which he privately called Missa Hee-Haw. Our parish at the time, which bordered his, had the same arrangement. Comparing notes, we once discussed the pheonomenon that in both parishes, the musicians at the liturgically correct masses considered themselves to be performing, and would often bring reading material to keep themselves occupied when they weren't singing, paid no attention to the consecration, etc. The folk group members, by contrast, may have sung songs in awful taste, but did so with manifest sincerity and piety.

My point is not that Traditionalists are empty and modernists true-hearted. Not at all. It's that tastes also must be educated. There are some souls who hear Chant or Palestrina and never go back, but there are also souls who can't and don't respond right away. It's hard for me to understand how, but it is possible to read and love what the Pope says about the liturgy and go back to playing the tambourine...but with more love and passion.

It's never helpful to assume the worst of people. Let's face it, Catholicism has always been the home not only of high liturgy and art, but also of popular piety and the most horrendous saccharine schlock. Sanguinous crucifixes, bone churches, Lourdes water in bottles shaped like the Blessed Virgin (have you ever read any of Mother Teresa's poetry?). We're the Church that embraces not only the poor, but the tacky. Years ago I picked up a few old hymnals with the goal of learning more Marian hymns than Hail Holy Queen & Immaculate Mary...and Lawdy, we are well rid of most of what was sung in the 1950s. Treacly goo.

I don't know what my point is, except that I sometimes wonder if Traditionalists are sufficiently aware that even when the reform of the reform is complete and the last Dan Schutte song has been sung, there will still be the ugly & the tasteless in some form. I'm not defending it; I'm not suggesting that fitting liturgy isn't important. But in the quest for the beautiful, a sense of humor is also necessary. Tackiness: it's what differentiates us from the Anglicans.