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Bishop Victor, youth, liturgical music (Part I)

Today, I will share the inspirational and informative message of Diocese of Baguio Bishop Victor Bendico on Sept. 3 when he passionately addressed all liturgists and supporters of liturgy all over the country during the 34th National Meeting of Diocesan Directors of Liturgy (NMDDL) in General Santos City. Bishop Bendico is also the chair of the Episcopal Commission of Liturgy of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines. Among the participants, I cannot just keep the beautiful message to myself. I must share it. So, I asked the bishop’s permission for publication.

Fellow bishops, diocesan directors of liturgy, fellow liturgists, participants,

How are the young people today in relation to liturgy? Is liturgy one of their priorities? In the pre-synodal meeting of young people of the 21st century from various religious and cultural backgrounds (Rome, 2018 March 19 to 24), it was found that “they (the young people) were concerned about topics such as sexuality, addiction, failed marriages, broken families as well as larger-scale social issues such as organized crime, human trafficking, violence, corruption, exploitation, homicide, all forms of persecution and the degradation of our natural environment.”

The Final Document of the “Synod of Bishops XV Ordinary General Assembly: Young people, the faith and Vocational discernment” (Rome, 2018 October 3 to 28) touches on the liturgy in No. 47 under the heading “Art, music, and sport,” in No. 51 under the heading: “The desire for living liturgy” and in Nos. 134-136 under the heading “The centrality of the liturgy.”

Even the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christus Vivit of Pope Francis (Loreto, 2019 March 25) deals with the liturgy only in No. 224 and No. 226 under the heading “Areas needing to be developed.” So in the mind of Pope Francis, the liturgy among the young people today is an area that still needs to be developed or something to be explored with. Unlike the children with a “Directory for masses with children,” the youth do not have liturgical guides suited to their age and situations coming from Rome.

When I was the director of liturgy in the Archdiocese of Capiz, the 9th NMDDL in 1994 was held at St. Pius X Seminary in Roxas City. The topic then of the national meeting was “Liturgy for children and the youth.”

In his talk delivered that time, Fr. Anscar Chupungco, OSB (May he rest in peace) analyzed the Directory “Pueros baptizatos” for Masses with Children published by the Congregation for Divine Worship on Nov. 1, 1973. Fr. Anscar had the impression that “those being addressed by the Directory are in reality limited to the small segment of normal, healthy, and somewhat intelligent children between the ages of five and eight.”

Nevertheless, he said: “I have reason to think that the premises on which the Directory works are applicable to other age brackets as well, at least to masses in which other children and youth participate. Such, for example, are the masses for grade school and high school students, or even the youth masses organized by parishes.”

What are these youth masses? Going back a little bit to history, while the liturgical reform of Vatican II was being implemented in its early stages, a specialized phenomenon emerged, known as the “Youth Masses” primarily attended by young people and often with their families.

The celebrations were impressive and lively, dynamic and attracted attention among the young. Annibale Bugnini described them as derived “not from extravagancies, but simply from songs and music that respected the sensibilities of the young.” (cf. The Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975, p. 428). The young used guitars and other musical instruments.

They voiced spontaneously their intentions during the prayer of the faithful and they had a handclasp at the greeting of peace. At that time, these developments in the liturgy alarmed some people. They thought that these were forms of desecration. All these things now are taken for granted.

Are the youth in the Philippines expecting something from us as we gather for this national meeting? It is indubitable that after more than 50 years of liturgical reform, young people today are still yearning for something in the liturgy. Christus vivit expresses in a way the desires of the youth in these words: “When it comes to worship and prayer, ‘in many settings, young Catholics are asking for prayer opportunities and sacramental celebrations capable of speaking to their daily lives through a fresh, authentic and joyful liturgy.’” (No. 224)

This sentence is found in the Final Document (No. 51) of the “Synod of Bishops XV Ordinary General Assembly: Young people, faith, and vocational discernment.” Can these yearnings of the youth be realized? In what way can they be realized? What is fresh liturgy? What is authentic liturgy? What is joyful liturgy? How do the youth understand them?

As regards authentic liturgy, the Final Document of the Synod of Bishops makes a comment “that the young people…appreciate and wish to engage deeply with authentic celebrations in which the beauty of signs and…community involvement truly speak of God” (No. 134).

Nevertheless, let us not forget that authentic liturgy presupposes the classical Roman liturgy of 7th century Rome with its simple, direct and sober characters. I doubt if this kind of liturgy is joyful and attractive to the youth today.

However, Sacrosanctum concilium No. 14 tells us about full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations. The Final Document affirms active participation as necessary and should be promoted for the young people “while keeping alive a sense of awe before the mystery” (No. 134).

But in the mind of the council, this kind of participation has to be promoted through acclamations, songs, responses, gestures and ministerial functions, something considered as fresh liturgy since the Council of Trent in the 16th century.

With the vernacular translations of prayer texts already in place, with the simplification of the liturgical structures and ceremonies, and the creation of new rites and Eucharistic prayers, with the greater involvement of the youth in liturgical ministries after the reform of Vatican II, do they, our Filipino youth, understand what they say and what they do during acclamations, songs, responses and ministerial functions?

Liturgical understanding is key to active participation and also in seeing the liturgy as an “encounter” with the Lord and the community.

Here is a valid observation of the Final Document of the Synod of Bishops on the Youth last year: “Elsewhere, we are witnessing a certain abandonment of the sacraments and of the Sunday Eucharist, perceived more as a moral precept rather than a joyful encounter with the Risen Lord and the community.” (No. 51). I think, this is truer in other countries.

Look forward to the second part where the bishop mentioned liturgical music and the youth. He used our “ayyeng”(indigenous chant)CD album project as an example. Reach me at marcsongs123@gmail.com or at 0905-165-3669.

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