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An American Reader Writes from Austria

01/03/2014 Comments (15)

Curious about the take you and your readers might have on this.

I'm in Austria at the moment. Last night, I was chatting with a friend who mentioned she's going to mass in December. After doing a double-take, it turns out she isn't actually a Christmas/Easter Catholic, but rather that she's going to the Vienna Boys' Choir, which regularly performs some of the more famous masses (e.g., Mozart) at the local cathedral.

I'm OK this far in; I heard Tallis' Spem in Alium performed in Seattle's St. James for example (and that's not even technically Catholic music!). Both the music and the venue were meant to evoke the glory of God.

My discomfort settled in when she mentioned casually that they trot out the local bishop to celebrate Mass while the boys' choir performs, and also that tickets are exorbitantly expensive and difficult to come by, such that being able to go to one of these things is a status symbol.

I know the Europeans regard themselves as mostly cultural Catholics anyway, so I'm torn. Is this a chance to evangelize to a crowd not usually in church, to show the beauty of the Mass and for them to be in the presence of the Eucharist? Or is it just one more re-enforcer for those that view the Church as composed of empty (but beautiful!) tradition and a bunch of 'old fashioned' rules?

I think I'd be more OK with it if it were just a performance (no celebration of Mass), or if the Mass were free to attend.  As it is, it sits uneasily, but I'd be curious as to the take of somebody more familiar with church history than I...

Your thoughts? :)

If they want to charge for the concert, fine.  And if the monied class feels like paying through the nose for it, fine.  Musicians are worth their labor.  But you are right: to attach a Mass to it and charge money is simony, plain and simple.  It is a scandal to force anybody, rich or poor, but especially poor, to pay for access to the sacraments.  It should stop.  If they want to make the music part of the Mass, they should make it free.  If they want to charge for the music, they must decouple it from the Mass.

In my not so humble opinion. 

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About Mark Shea

Mark Shea
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Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.