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Wednesday, 3 December 2014

John Michael Talbot: Ignorant, liturgical heretic!

For nearly thirty years I have followed my vocation in liturgy and church music. Over those years, I have been part of a few excellent choirs. This included the Toronto Oratory Choir where we sang the propers and polyphony for the Latin Mass in the Ordinary Form (Missal of Paul VI), and the use of Latin and proper English liturgical music in the sung English Mass according to the same Missal as well as Sunday Vespers in a combination of Latin and English, chant, hymnody and polyphony. I sang with Canada's leading male-vocal ensemble for three seasons, The Victoria Scholars, though secular, singing sacred music. I've lead small scholas and little choirs for the traditional liturgy. I served as the Schola Master and Cantor for the glorious 19 months when we had the FSSP in Toronto and have sung the EF almost every Sunday for a decade. Weekly, for seven years, I have sung Saturday night in the OF and as well as Sundays in the EF and I will continue to do so with God's help until I can do it no longer. Suffice to say that I know a thing or two about liturgy and church music. 

John Michael Talbot and his ilk have destroyed church music and continue to do so. "Better music at Mass means a closer encounter with Christ" says Talbot. I agree, but not on what he says next. "Catholics are notoriously known for having the worst music anywhere" he adds, along with his disrespect of the corrected translation on the Nicene Creed and the word "consubstantial."  On both of these John Michael Talbot and this writer are going to differ sharply and drastically. His arrogance is astounding.  However, I will agree on one thing, church music is bad because of John Michael Talbot and others like him.

Read this again, according to this aging hippie and lay leader of a religious commune, we have the "worst music anywhere." 
120114-mass-music
Really John Michael? 

Listen to the music playing on this blog for Advent. Go search on the Internet for something by Palestrina or Tallis or a simple Gregorian chant, the proper music for the Church even in the Novus Ordo Missae according to the Second Vatican Council! Then after doing that, come back to the combox here and tell me that Catholics have the "worst music anywhere." That is nothing more than a self-serving lie. Strong words John? Well, maybe it is the first time in your career that someone had the courage to state publicly that you have done enormous damage to Catholic liturgical praxis. Yours is an opinion formed out of self-interest. You have no liturgical credentials, no training, no scholarship. I doubt that you've even read or understood Sacrosanctam Concilium. How much money do you make from all these Catholic parishes buying your music and bringing you in for these talks? Seems pretty lucrative if you ask me.

You, John Michael Talbot are a liturgical heretic.

There is no singing this music by congregations. There is no "active participation." Talbot is a singer-songwriter born out of another era. If you want his music fine, play it in the church hall, or around the campfire, buy it, put more money in his pocket; knock yourself out with it; but it does not belong in the Holy Mass! 


Talbot is a convert from Methodism. It is too bad that he did not immerse himself in liturgy of the faith he came to. 

Instead he made it all about himself because it is all about him and not Him. When the history is written on what went wrong in the Church's liturgy, they'll be a whole chapter on this ageing hippie.

And all the talk about Our Lord Jesus Christ is not going to fix that John.

18 comments:

Dymphna said...

Is Talbot the Little Portion guy? He is right in that we do have lousy music in most parishes and his stuff adds to the list.

Bear said...

I was going to say basically the same thing Dymphna does: We do have lousy music, and it's his.

Anonymous said...

Do you think you're jumping the gun? Surely, he's referring to post-Conciliar music? Some of his stuff is not that bad for "contemporary contemplative", although not suited for the liturgy, and we shouldn't confuse him with the St Louis Jesuits. Show me where he says choral and chant is "the worst" and I'll accede to your point.

XFitr4Life said...

This is exactly why I'll drive 15 miles to the nearest Dominican parish to assist at Mass rather than the 5 minutes it takes to get to my nearest "c"atholic parish where JMT's diddies pass for sound liturgical music. At least I can hear Palestrina, Victoria and Byrd for the Dominican Rite or regularly scheduled EF.

Michael Shannon said...

Yes he is. My Aunt and Uncle lived at Little Portion for a while. They left because he is so self centered and has no formal Catholic education in liturgy or sacred music. The only reason he is allowed to continue is because the Bishops of Little Rock are Progressives.

Anonymous said...

Talbot has never written liturgical music - no Ordinary setting nor Propers. And his hymns are - ugh - so Peter, Paul, and Mary!

Augustine Thomas said...

The obvious truth is quite the opposite. The Church is responsible for the greatest music in history.
We're being asked to choose between the "feel-good" nonsense of Talbot and his ilk and the music of Beethoven, Mozart, Palestrina, Tallis, even Bach, etc., etc., etc.
You have to have had your tastes extremely degraded by the mediocrity of modernity in order to not know the obvious choice.

John said...

Your posting comes across quite apropo to me. I haven't been in any choirs quite as distinguished as those you list, but I have been in a few choirs myself.
For many years, I sang various folksy songs for Mass. Then, I wound up performing "Oh, Magnum Mysterium" in a..secular college show choir!
That one has had me scratching my head for some time. Shouldn't those two be reversed?

Ultimately, I wound up quitting choirs for church altogether for a few years. I simply didn't see the point. Then I came across a parish that actually dedicated some effort to music. I haven't been able to participate in the better part of a year due to other concerns, but I intend to when I'm less preoccupied.

If we want to see serious Catholic identity break out again, we need to remember the older music.

Vox Cantoris said...

Anonymous at 12:37.

He did not mention chant or polyphony. He said Catholic have the "worst music" That is Catholic music!

Anonymous said...

As a former member of JMT's community, I can confirm that he is not just a liturgical heretic...it goes much deeper. The community used to practice Zen Buddhist meditation and the current spirituality is a combination of anything JMT feels is important at that point in time. He pretends to be a monk, hermit, and ascetic but is married, wealthy, and has the latest i-gadgets as soon as they come out. As far as his music goes - he is a one trick pony and just recycles his tunes with new words. The one redeeming thing in his life is his spouse - a holy woman that left her vocation as a sister to become Mrs. JMT.

Aged parent said...

I wonder why it is that the Church attracts clowns like this?

Thin Places said...

I really love the genuine spirit of Christ that you fully exemplify. It is so refreshing to hear words of encouragement and building up in the Body of our Lord Jesus. When he returns, I look forward to seeing what he has to say to you. Will it be "Well done!" or "Well done."? I guess we'll see. In the mean time, continue to encourage all in that pure angelic, holy way of yours...

Vox Cantoris said...

Dear Thin Places,

Yes, you are right. I am a wretched sinner, please pray for me.

Yet, I look at you and I ask, "what kind of man would say that you "look forward" to seeing my judgement?

Why, it seems that there is a log in your own eye, yet you are focused on the beam in mine.

Pray for me.

The Wondering Catholic said...

If he is talking about the music that began with The St. Louis Jesuits and which has continued to get worse over the years, I would absolutely agree with him. If he is talking about Palestrina, Bach, and Gregorian chant, etc, then I would sharply disagree with him. Your response assumes that you know what he means, and I don't know if that assumption is correct or not. Do you have context for what he said that makes it clear?

minbee66 said...

Although they should not be sung at Mass, some of JMT's songs appeal to me, such as those on St. Francis of Assisi and those using Scripture. However, he seems to be a loose canon--for example, his views on the Reformation (expressed in one of his songs) are not Catholic. Some of his songs are like Broadway numbers--and that is not meant as praise.

Thanks for the comments of those who were in his "community" as well as to Vox Cantoris for this post.

Anonymous said...

I too am a former community member. I love traditional liturgical music. I also love John Michael's music, however, as far as Mass at the hermitage is concerned, he plays basically the same songs every single Mass! How is it that someone who has recorded hundreds of songs, doesn't care enough to give any thought to preparing music for Mass? I can also confirm that John Michael is as phony as a three dollar bill. He preaches poverty, but lives a very luxurious lifestyle. When he travels he always stays at the best hotels, Marriotts, Hiltons. When he flies, he flies first class. He owns a dozen or so of the best and most expensive guitars ever made. Years ago, he came up with the most conceited money making scheme I've ever heard of. He started buying expensive new guitars, playing them once, and then selling them online as "the guitars of John Michael Talbot" Ugh! That didn't last long, but it shows what a creep he really is. A few years ago, he and Viola bought a mansion in Houston, and are calling it a "daughterhouse" of the community. He spends most of the time he isn't travelling at that mansion. He is the most egocentric person I've ever known. Once he even chastised people at one of his concerts for coughing while he was talking!! And by the way, that granola the community sells was stolen from a former community member who gave them the recipe, spent hours teaching them to make it and advising them, was promised a percentage of the profits, and later told that never happened and is now shunned by the community. The breakfast cookie they sell is a Martha Stewart recipe. They tout these products as being created by his wife Viola after "many years of research". Many community members are aware of what happened, and will not admit it. Over the many years I was associated with this community, I know of countless ex-members who have written the bishop of Little Rock, including me, to know avail. If you like his books and music, fine, buy them, but don't buy their granola, and don't ever join this community, monastic or domestic.

Anonymous said...

you are entitled to your opinion,
However, defaming a devout Catholic like John Michael Talbot, is just morally wrong.
This is bearing false witness.
John has a different taste in music period.
This does not make him a bad person or a bad Catholic.

I used to attend a Church that had the Latin mass.
But, I noticed the bigotry, the hatred, the arrogance that came with the Latin mass.
Now, i am no longer Catholic or even Christian.
Now, it makes me sick in my heart & soul to hear such hatred in any religion or hatred from any one.

Victoria

Carolyn said...

I am truly sorry that Victoria left the Church because of what Pope Francis calls "rigidity" among some of those who insist on the Latin rite of Mass. Jesus' Presence in the Holy Eucharist is my primary reason for remaining Catholic. Our Church is diverse yet one, filled with sinners and saints, messy and yet extraordinarily beautiful. I am so blessed to be Catholic.

I am a current member of the Brothers and Sisters of Charity founded by John Michael Talbot. I love the community, our fellowship, his music, and the obedience to Catholic doctrine and the Magisterium that John Michael promotes coupled with loving ecumenism to members of other faiths. The Eastern spirituality so popular in the 60's and 70's has long been abandoned by the community while acknowledging that all that is good is from God. John Michael appreciates the beauty of traditional Catholic music. He has recorded an album of Gregorian chants, and appreciates all our sacred music. In case you haven't noticed, many parishes sadly have choir members that are tone deaf and sing off key. That is what he laments when he talks about the music at Mass. He spearheaded contemporary Christian music and won more awards in the 20th century than any other contemporary artist. His hymns are not inappropriate for liturgy. Condemning all modern music as "bad" and all traditional music as "good" is not only snobbery, it is a failure to recognize that the Church has always conformed to the cultures in which she finds herself in order to reach people's minds and hearts. In the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, the introduction of polyphony and harmony were controversial as were Bach and Handel. Not liking a particular musical form does not make it inappropriate for worship. That's an over simplification. All music was once new.

As to his luxurious lifestyle, he has spent 10 months a year for the last 15 years traveling around the country in a van doing parish missions and retreats for seminarians, priests and religious. He rarely flies. When he isn't traveling, he lives a hermetic life at Little Portion. Like other itinerant preachers, he sometimes has rooms donated. Some of his guitars are donated. His ministry has supported a beautiful monastery and retreat center where many people have been blessed. I would not base my opinion of any community on the testimony of disgruntled ex-members. Many non-Catholics have been converted to the Faith because of John Michael. Our community now has 2 Catholic priests, 4 deacons, one or two young men in seminary, as well as monastic brothers and sisters living consecrated life, and over 350 domestic members living our way of life in our own homes. Our charisms are poverty, chastity in accordance with our state of life, obedience, prayer, silence, and solitude. We are called to be faithful to family life and active in our parishes.

Viola went through the correct procedure for leaving her community before joining BSC. She still visits the sisters in her former community and remains on good terms with them. (Read the lives of the saints to see how many of them changed communities.) I don't know the origins of her recipes, but if monasteries support themselves by the sale of beer, chocolate, and coffee, why not granola? I would be interested to see documentation of a violation of proprietary rights in the sale of granola. I am sorry that anyone who participated in our community felt mistreated.
God bless!