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Sing to the Lord:
Cultural, Multicultural, and Intercultural Perspectives
Ricky Manalo, CSP  

Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship (STL) includes a welcomed dialogue among Roman Catholic liturgy, music, and culture. STL builds on the U.S. Bishops' previous documents on liturgical music while calling for a deepening appreciation of the cultural heritages within the U.S. Catholic Church. That STL devotes a section to liturgical music within multicultural contexts is a testament to this.

Numerous pastoral implications emerge from this statement regarding liturgical music making and culture. I am narrowing these implications to three: a deepening cultural diversity (multicultural) awareness; respecting and fostering the variety of musical and cultural styles; and intercultural relationships in liturgical pastoral settings. I will address these areas in light of STL's cultural, multicultural, and intercultural approaches to liturgical music. (It should be noted that in this article my use of the terms "culture" or "cultural groups" specifically refers to "ethnic cultural groups" unless otherwise noted. STL also refers to and utilizes the notion of "culture" in a "cultural sociological sense," e.g., "counter-cultural." However, it is clear that STL's approach to culture leans heavily toward the notion of culture as bounded collective groups, an approach that stems more from the field of cultural anthropology and that marks most Roman Catholic official liturgical documents since the Second Vatican Council. For a breakdown of STL and its approaches to three notions of culture, see my "Sing to the Lord: Cultural Perspectives" in Perspectives on Sing to the Lord: Essays in Honor of Robert W. Hovda, Series V (Silver Spring, MD: NPM Publications, 2009), 39–54.

Since 1983, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has published a series of statements addressing the growing cultural diversity in the United States. Collectively, these statements divided ethnic cultural groups into four distinct race/ethnicity subgroups (African American/Black, Asian and Pacific, Hispanic, and Native American). Statements, such as "Welcoming the Stranger Among Us" (2000), considered the pastoral care of ethnic cultural groups from a transnational perspective (e.g., migrants, immigrants, and refugees groups), with African- American Catholics receiving particular attention to their liturgical and musical heritage. Official statements on Hispanic/ Latino Catholics have included liturgical and devotional practices, but these inclusions were part of larger pastoral concerns. Finally, "A Time for Remembering, Reconciling, and Recommitting Ourselves as a People" (1992), the USCCB Statement on Native Americans, and "Asian and Pacific Presence: Harmony in Faith" (2001), the USCCB statement on Asian Pacific Catholics, minimally addressed the liturgical and devotional practices that stem from these communities.

STL may be viewed as a coalescence between past liturgical music statements and the reality that the U.S. Catholic Church is culturally diverse. This is represented in STL's reference to "Welcoming the Stranger" and the insistence that attention be paid to both the liturgical and musical needs of immigrants. With today's migratory lifestyles, local worshipping communities are continually evolving. Thus, to understand how to celebrate liturgies in culturally diverse contexts, local communities must first see themselves as culturally diverse.

Pastoral Reflection: Who Exactly Are "We"?
What are the ethnic and cultural groups that comprise your worshipping community? Many communities remain unaware of the specific breakdown of cultural groups within their communities. We all remain aware of how migratory lifestyles are occurring at local, national, and international levels. Are new members within your assemblies? Are members leaving, moving in, or undergoing other forms of transition? Furthermore, while STL focuses on ethnic-racial cultural groups, how do we include other socio-cultural identity markers such as class (economic), generation (age), gender, able/disable, etc.? All worshipping communities, in the end, are culturally diverse.

Connected to this first concern is the need to be aware of the leaders and representatives who speak on behalf of each cultural group. Many non-Euro-American ethnic cultural groups tend to have "collectivist worldviews," that is, the actions or decisions of the members are often dependent upon group consensus. In collectivist cultures, members focus on larger group goals rather than individual goals and achievements. Furthermore, often a handful of leaders have been given permission to speak on the group's behalf. In my experience of Filipino culture, for example, the women tend to be significant prayer leaders. Within this circle I often discover one or two who particularly stick out as "cultural bridge-builders," those who not only speak on behalf of the others but who remain instrumental in the implementation of pastoral plans and strategies. (I borrow the term "[cultural] bridge-builders" from Rufino Zaragoza, OFM. See his "Multicultural Ministry in Your Parish: Become a Border-Crosser and a Bridge-Builder" in Today's Parish Minister (April/ May 2009), 14–15.)

How might one apply this to music ministry? A good illustration could be found in the way music/liturgy directors recruit new choir members. The most common experience is "an announcement at the pulpit" at the end of Mass in some form of an invitation, plea, or persuasion. While the intention behind this strategy is good, this form of recruitment effort presumes a "Euro-American mindset": the one doing the announcement presumes that the individual is capable of coming up with a decision, regardless of how such a decision may affect any level of accountability toward the other members of their ethnic group. Of course, music directors have a variety of recruitment strategies at their disposal that move beyond pulpit announcements. My point is to suggest that music directors engage in one-on-one conversations with the leaders of collectivist cultural groups and invite these groups through designated leaders to send musical representatives to the larger liturgical music projects of a parish.

The awareness of the cultural groups existing in our worshipping communities today ought to lead to a respect and a fostering of the various cultural expressions and traditions within a worshipping community. As The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, #37 (Sacrosanctum Concilium, SC), states:

Even in the liturgy, the Church has no wish to impose a rigid uniformity in matters which do not implicate the faith or the good of the whole community; rather does she respect and foster the genius and talents of the various races and peoples.

STL continues this theme in its opening section by placing cultural considerations within its understanding of "the treasury of sacred music":

The choir may draw on the treasury of sacred music, singing compositions by composers of various periods and in various musical styles, as well as music that expresses the faith of the various cultures that enrich the Church (30).

Here, "the treasury of sacred music" is neither confined to compositions from specific historic periods nor to a single musical style, but includes compositions from a seemingly endless variety of cultural groups. Thus, the "treasury of sacred music" is not confined to the classical tradition of European music, but may include gospel spirituals that stem from the African American tradition, the banda and conjunto musical styles that one might hear from a Mariachi ensemble during the feast of La Virgen de Guadalupe, the incorporation of dance and drums during Native American Catholic rituals of smudging (blessing and purifying with cedar, sage, sweetgrass, and tobacco) and fourdirectional prayers, the eucharistic prayers chanted a cappella by Vietnamese priests-presiders, or the festive folk songs that many Filipino communities sing during their Advent novena celebration, Simbang Gabi ("Night Mass").

STL acknowledges different kinds of music, as the third section of STL demonstrates in its consideration of the holiness found in "sacred music." Borrowing from SC, STL, 67, states:

"Sacred music is to be considered the more holy the more closely connected it is with the liturgical action, whether making prayer more pleasing, promoting unity of minds, or conferring greater solemnity upon the sacred rites (SC #112)." This holiness involves ritual and spiritual dimensions, both of which must be considered within cultural context.

STL, 70, continues by describing the cultural context:

The cultural context refers to the setting in which the ritual and spiritual dimensions come into play. Factors such as the age, spiritual heritage, and cultural and ethnic background of a given liturgical assembly must be considered. The choice of individual compositions for congregational participation will often depend on those ways in which a particular group finds it best to join their hearts and minds to the liturgical action.

The inclusion and respect of all cultural heritages does not dismiss the place of Gregorian chant in our repertoire. Quoting SC, 116, STL, 72, notes the pride of place given to Gregorian chant: "The Church recognizes Gregorian chant as being specially suited to the Roman Liturgy. Therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services." STL continues by stating that "Gregorian chant is uniquely the Church's own music" and that it may serve as "a bond of unity across cultures, a means for diverse communities to participate together in song, and a summons to contemplative participation in the Liturgy." Thus STL, 73, weighs the use of Gregorian chant within the cultural and spiritual milieu of worshipping communities:

In considering the use of the treasures of chant, pastors and liturgical musicians should take care that the congregation is able to participate in the Liturgy with song. They should be sensitive to the cultural and spiritual milieu of their communities, in order to build up the Church in unity and peace.

While Gregorian chant may serve as a unifying agent (especially since it is "uniquely the Church's own music"), other cultural and musical styles and languages may also serve as such agents. For example, in the United States, the English language continues to be the most common unifying language, and in some local regions in the United States, Spanish is the common unifying language. Thus, "other things being equal," while Gregorian chant has been given a pride of place, "[t]hese 'other things' are the important liturgical and pastoral concerns facing every bishop, pastor, and liturgical musician" (STL #73).

In short, the treasuring of sacred music involves a dialogue between the musical expressions and the liturgical action while considering the ritual and spiritual components within a specific cultural context. One musical style ought not be considered "culturally superior" than another. Instead, the treasures of each cultural group ought to be promoted and fostered to the extent that these sacred songs express the worshipping experience and theology of the assembly.

Pastoral Reflection: Becoming Cross-Cultural Disciples of Music
Recently, I became co-director of the Cultural Orientation Program for International Ministers (COPIM) program for the dioceses of northern California. My fellow co-director and I convene with a group of international priests and ministers nine times a year. Our goal is to not only morally and spiritually support these priests and ministers, but to introduce them to U.S. cultural values and teach pastoral skills. During our times together, I am always humbled by their enthusiasm to learn so much about our cultural values, social practices, and worldviews. Since they have agreed to move away from the security of their countries, their families, and their cultural values, they have essentially become cross-cultural disciples in a foreign land.

Given the culturally diverse context in the United States, perhaps we are all called to be cross-cultural disciples, asked to explore the richness of other cultural expressions. For pastoral musicians trained in the European tradition of classical music (as I have been), the call to be cross-cultural disciples would be a call to explore the musical paradigms that shape the cultural identities of the members of our worshipping communities. A starting point is to acknowledge the musical assumptions we may have about other musical traditions.

In her 2005 plenum address at the National Association of Pastoral Musicians convention, Mary E. McGann, RCSJ, said:

The European classical musical paradigm, in which most of us have been trained, makes different musical assumptions than those of many other cultural traditions. These assumptions have shaped our musical imaginations and our aesthetic preferences. They have become internalized "right ways" of making music, but they may prejudice us to the musical practices and choices of other traditions. (Mary E. McGann, "Embrace the Diversity in the Church," Pastoral Music 30:1, 40)

In one of her examples, McGann drew on the European classical paradigm about the written musical score. The assumption is that the score "contains the composer's intent and must be held to. In many other traditions, however, improvisation, embellishment, and other forms of "composing in performance are the norm, keeping the music fresh and vital." She also provided the example of the European classical assumption that "vocal timbre should be pure and choral sound well-blended. Whereas in many traditions, raspy, guttural, nasal, or piercing vocal sound is cultivated, at times for its emotional power or simply because it is considered beautiful."

Each cultural musical tradition has a set of values that should be respected. At the same time, each cultural musical tradition is dynamic and evolving into new paradigms that meet the needs at a particular time in history. In this respect, all crosscultural disciples of music are called to continue to discover the richness and deepen their understanding of their cultural tradition. For those who may have been formed within the European classical tradition of liturgical music, this includes the rediscovery of the place of Gregorian chant within the community's repertoire, as well as the "sacred treasuries" that have emerge since the Second Vatican Council, including the more contemporary repertoire of liturgical songs.

STL, 59–60, breaks new ground in its consideration of intercultural relationships that exist within worship settings and other pastoral contexts. This is the first time that the term "intercultural" appears in an official Roman Catholic liturgical document. Its usage in this statement is linked to the term "multicultural," in order to move beyond the numerical designation of the presence of many cultures and highlight the more dynamic interactions that exists between and among cultural groups and relationships before, during, and after worship events. As STL, 59, states:

When prepared with an attitude of mutual reciprocity, local communities might eventually expand from those celebrations that merely highlight their multicultural differences to celebrations that better reflect the intercultural relationships of the assembly and the unity that is shared in Christ.

The cultural context in most dioceses, parishes, and neighborhoods is an intercultural context. Our worshipping communities involve a multitude of cultural identity negotiations. At times, there may be the need to hear and sing liturgical songs in one's own language and musical tradition. At other times, there may be the need for liturgical songs to reflect the tradition of the Church and the history of the local community, while remaining open to new compositions that address the needs of our Church today. These negotiations lie somewhere between the intercultural dynamics that exist among the various cultural groups of the community and the desire to celebrate the unity in Christ that we proclaim.

Pastoral Reflection: Three Cultural Lenses in Pastoral Music Ministry
With the introduction of the term "intercultural" in this statement, it may profit us to make some distinctions among "three cultural lenses" in pastoral ministry: the monocultural lens, the multicultural lens, and the intercultural lens. (The idea of "three cultural lenses" is borrowed from my conversations with Brett Hoover, CSP, and Tito Cruz, sm. Hoover and I together presented the joint paper "In Search of Culture After Geertz: Content and Practice of Teaching Culture and Theology" at the 2007 Western regional meeting of the American Association of Religion in Berkeley. The notion of three cultural lenses emerged from this paper. In this article, I borrow from Hoover's starting point and apply this to pastoral music ministry.)

A monocultural lens is a perception in which a cultural group is seen as superior to other cultural groups. As a result, the encounter with other cultural practices may be perceived as strange or even inferior. Often this way of perceiving the world ignores any sense of cultural relativism. The multicultural lens views cultural groups as separate realities with a general acceptance of cultural relativism. More recently, I have called this dynamic a "fortifying of cultural boundaries" in which certain cultural groups, for various reasons, express their needs to pass down their tradition(s), sometimes accompanied with a cautious and suspicious disposition toward perceived power agendas. Finally, the intercultural lens promotes cultural relativism by acknowledging the dynamic interactions that occur between and among cultural groups and how these interactions, in turn, affect all those involved. This particular lens views cultural groups as continually changing in order to address and meet the needs of the present pastoral context.

I would suggest that all three cultural lenses are present in any liturgical ministry context. For example, there are times when I become aware of my biases of what constitutes "good liturgies" as distinct from "poorly celebrated liturgies." During these moments my "monocultural-liturgical lens" becomes informed by my history of embodied ritual experiences, based on personal preferences and my interpretation of Catholic liturgical tradition. Other times, my "multicultural-liturgical lens" emerges when a particular cultural identity inherent within me (e.g., my Filipino-American ethnicity or my North American upbringing) desires to sing a liturgical song that celebrates and respects that cultural identity. Finally, when I realize that I am not "the only person" involved during liturgical celebrations, I soon become aware of the interactions among other cultural groups and identities and come to negotiate my cultural sensibilities with the other members of the body of Christ. Different lenses may be used at different times, sometimes overlapping and/or interchanging, depending on the situation. Pastoral musicians (and, in fact, all pastoral ministers) may desire to acknowledge which lens is being used at any given time.

The cultural context of worshipping communities is always changing. This dynamic nature represents the greatest challenge that lies before us: not only are pastoral ministers called to be attentive and sensitive to the cultural expressions and needs that arise within their communities but are called to do so in the midst of constant change. Hopefully, USCCB statements such as STL will continue to acknowledge and address the cultural context, so that new pastoral responses may emerge. Perhaps this is one of the cornerstones of Roman Catholic worship: in the midst of cultural plurality, we are able to maintain some expression of unity in Christ, while utilizing and distributing an institutional network of cultural gifts, traditions, and resources. Music is one such gift. So long as we maintain the dialogue between liturgy and culture, while ever being dependent upon the grace of God, may we continue to sing to the Lord from age to age.

Ricky Manalo, CSP,
a liturgical composer, is on the board of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians and is an adviser to the U.S. Bishops Secretariat on Cultural Diversity in the Church. The doctoral candidate at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California, serves as an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University.

This is the fourth in a series of articles reflecting on the Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship. Those using the study guide may find it helpful to read the document, which can be found online at the web site of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, www.USCCB.org.

Part I: How Firm a Foundation: The Theology of Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship
Part II: Considering the Lenses of Sing to the Lord:The Relationship between the Three Judgments and the Two Dimensions, One Context
Part III: Catechizing the Faithful
Part IV: Cultural, Multicultural, and Intercultural Perspectives
Part V: Sing to the Lord and Psalmody in the Life of the Church
Part VI: Helpful Guidelines for Challenging Issues

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