The Catholic Church and CCM: Part 2

*Note: I am going to use terminology used by those involved in contemporary music within the Catholic Church. As such, terms like “worship leader”, “praise and worship”, “charismatic”, etc are going to be within that point of view. If these terms offend you because you don’t agree with the definition of these terms, I am sorry… that you feel that way. /endminirant

I wonder if many Catholic worship leaders are aware of what’s going around in the evangelical scene nowadays. In the past 5 years, there has been a huge tidal shift in focus for praise and worship music. Musically, we see a shift from mostly rock-based music to either a more alternative, electronic, or Mumford-sound. Hillsong is a great case study: go listen to their stuff from 2010 or before and you’ll get “Our God is Love”, “Forever Reign”, and way back, “Everyday”. If you listened to their album Zion, it’s completely different. I can’t even begin to count how many synths they used in production. And it doesn’t stop there – they remixed much of their music to 100% electronic dance music in the “White Album”. Just using the name “White Album” is a big deal, signifying a landmark achievement. Or at least it’s been that way since 1968. So who else? One group that is getting big is All Sons and Daughters, with their indie vibe. It’s kind of the opposite approach – instead of a million synths, their music is stripped down to what can be achieved with two voices, a guitar, and a piano. The only big name group that isn’t changing drastically is Passion, but according to these reviewers, their stuff the past few years isn’t very good. Make no mistake, anything less than 4/5 stars on a Christian music reviewing website is A BAD REVIEW.

The sound is one change, but more importantly, there is a change in theology for these musicians. This group called themselves “liturgical post-rock”. Remember David Crowder Band’s last album? IT WAS A MASS. Okay, it wasn’t a Mass like Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli, but it definitely wasn’t as irreverent as Leonard Bernstein’s MASS. Here is a fascinating interview of David Crowder as he released “Give Us Rest”.

A few things to note: 1) the interviewer states that “there’s sort of this movement in the church, back to sort of the liturgical movement, even in my church, which is a Baptist church…” 2) David Crowder states that he’s still Protestant (2:42 in the video). Sorry guys, but it brings up a surprising point: Protestants are discovering Catholic elements and incorporating them into their music.

It doesn’t stop with David Crowder. In 2011, Parachute Band released this album:


For those who don’t know the significance of naming your album “Matins / Vespers”, Matins is synonymous with The Office of Readings (prayed in the morning) and Vespers stands for Evening Prayer. These are two of seven prayers in the Divine Office, otherwise known as Liturgy of the Hours, which is the second highest form of prayer to the Holy Mass. So Protestants are discovering the Mass and the Divine Office – the two highest forms of liturgy in the Catholic Church. And it doesn’t stop there. They’re also discovering the Liturgical Calendar:


On the left is an album dedicated to the season of Advent, and on the right is an album dedicated to the season of Lent. In Advent, Vol. 1, there is a song titled, “Mother of God” which is essentially the first half of the Hail Mary prayer. In Lent, there is a song titled, “Now and at the hour of our death” which is the second half of the Hail Mary. Additionally, there is a song titled, “Holy Communion” which suggests a literal belief in Eucharist. This band behind these albums was the headliner at Praxis Conference 2014, which states on their website:

“In recent years independent evangelical churches around the world have exhibited a renewed interest in resourcing the historical Tradition of the early church. Little did they know other communities and leaders were feeling the same impulse.”

So Protestants are discovering the Mass, The Divine Office, the Church calendar, and Sacred Tradition. If you’re not convinced, read this by a Protestant pastor in Denver after his experience at the conference. A few highlights:

“But for those of us who were brought up in ecclesial contexts that gave us no footing to create a coherent faith, the journey into the Great Tradition is not a matter of fad or personal preference.  It is a matter of life or death.  Which leads me to my next thought…

This is not a passing fad.  One of my friends over lunch a couple weeks ago expressed concern that this passion for all things tradition/sacrament/liturgy/etc would become “the next big thing” in evangelicalism.  After all, we’ve got a pretty good track record of running from thing to thing to thing… whether it’s marriage and the family or social justice or the mission of God or the end times… every so often our imaginations get captivated with some new thing that for us is, seemingly out of nowhere, the ne plus ultra of what it means to be the faithful.  I do not get the impression that this is that.

[…]I think it’s about a desire to come home.  Speaking from my own experience (which is the only thing I can really speak very authoritatively on), my own fascination with all things “Rome” is not first pragmatic or intellectual–it is born of a spiritual yearning to be reunited with that which gave me, and all of us, birth.  For me, beginning to learn to believe along with the Church and worship along with the Church feels like learning the language of my homeland.  But the more I learn to believe and worship in the language of my homeland, the more I long for the homeland itself.

Let’s face it–the Protestant evangelical scene at the dawn of the 21st century is a lonely scene.  We’re far off.  We want home.  And along the way, as we meet other estranged brothers and sisters, there is a feeling of joy… but not of arrival.  We’re not staying here.  We’re headed somewhere.  We’re looking for home.  This is about a pilgrimage.  And it’s not just a pilgrimage from our side either.  As this video taped by Pope Francis makes plain, the pilgrimage is one that all of us must make.  We’re going to find each other.  It may be a long way off, but we’re going to arrive…

[…]Lift up your eyes, and behold the magnificent work of God!  We can’t remain alone.  Jesus isn’t coming for a harem, as they say.  He’s coming for a single Bride.  And he’s gonna get it… one way or another.

Okay, my apologies. I said a few highlights and went off and copied about 1/3 of his entire post. But please read it in its entirety. It makes me think about a few things:

1) I wonder if some Protestants are trying to be more Catholic than many Catholics today. The effort to discover what we should rediscover is clearly more pronounced on their end.

2) If a Protestant who has the desire of “coming home” went to a typical Catholic mass today, do you think he/she would see the Liturgy in all its beauty? I worry that we try to “cover up” Liturgy by elements I observe in a Protestant service. So, in a way, when we seek to contemporize the Liturgy and evangelize more through commonality, could we be actually diluting the Liturgy and evangelizing less?

Next up in the series: why we will never be the forefront of CCM and then a post after that on future directions.

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