By Andrew Komar
I was raised Catholic, carrying on the intense Catholic tradition of my father. He is an accomplished organist, and he uses his talent primarily as the organist at our parish’s 8 o’clock mass. With our heavy musical background, it was inevitable that my brothers and I would eventually be recruited to play our own instruments during the mass. At the height of it, my brothers would play violin and viola, and I would be on the trumpet. We would accompany our Dad on the organ every Sunday of the year. The little old ladies who came to the 8 o’clock were our biggest fans (because there never seemed to be anyone else up at such an hour), and they would always compliment us.
As any good Catholic knows, Christmas Mass is the biggest mass of the year. It’s when you see the rare but profitable “Christmas-and-Easter” Catholics. The music of Christmas Mass is actually fun to sing, too. My Dad always gets to play music for one of these masses, and my brothers and I are inevitably recruited to help out. The familiarity of the music combined with the thousands of parishioners makes for a hell of an exhilarating performance. Seriously though, who doesn’t like to sing Christmas carols with thousands of people accompanied by a trumpet and a giant pipe organ?
But herein lies the dilemma. Since I’m a writer for this blog, it’s pretty obvious that I don’t buy into any of the associated religious dogma, and I feel the same way as the Crommunist with his looming nightmare. The church is evil, unquestionably, but my participation in the mass has nothing to do with supporting the church; I only want to support my family. I’ve already been hauled to church since returning home for the holidays, but I have not participated in the mass (praying, taking communion, etc). The Christmas masses are coming up, and I have a non-negotiable familial obligation to participate in the music liturgy.
Back in Montreal, my a cappella group took a gig at a synagogue to provide entertainment during one of the nights of Hanukkah. As a member of the group, I had an obligation to participate, even though I disagree with as much of the dogma underlying the Jewish faith as I do Catholic dogma. I don’t think the Jewish community in Montreal is evil any more than I think that my parish in Calgary is, but in both cases I’m using my musical talent to explicitly support a religious community which which I disagree.
So, my dilemma is this: am I a hypocrite for musically participating in the mass? I don’t contribute any money to the church by playing, but I am not exactly opposing it either. As musicians, my family is definitely providing joy and entertainment to thousands of people, but is the fact that this entertainment and joy occurs during mass enough to make the whole thing evil or at least wrong? From a musician’s point of view, is the fact that I personally think it is wrong enough for me to ignore my familial obligation? What do you think?