Gregorian chant helps church express its universal identity, pope says

By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In giving priority to Gregorian chant and to classical liturgical music, the Catholic Church is not trying to limit anyone’s creativity but is showcasing a tradition of beautiful prayer, Pope Benedict XVI wrote.

Music at Mass should reflect the fact that the liturgy “is primarily the action of God through the church, which has its history, its rich tradition and its creativity,” the pope said in a letter marking the 100th anniversary of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music.

In the letter, released by the Vatican May 31, the pope wrote that sometimes people have presented Gregorian chant and traditional church music as expressions “to be overcome or disregarded because they limited the freedom and creativity of the individual or community.”

But, he said, when people recognize that the liturgy does not belong to an individual or parish as much as it belongs to the church, then they begin to understand how, while some expressions of local culture are appropriate, priority should be given to expressions of the church’s universal culture.

He said music used at Mass must convey a “sense of prayer, dignity and beauty,” should help the faithful enter into prayer — including through use of music that reflects their culture — and should keep alive the tradition of Gregorian chant and polyphony.

Editor’s note: Here is the report of the Vatican Information Service on this letter which was sent in conjunction with the festivities around the 100th anniversary of the Pontifical Institute of Scred Music.  — awr

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54 comments

  1. “Music at Mass should reflect the fact that the liturgy “is primarily the action of God through the church,

    That is to say that it is God nourishing God’s people more than it is the people doing anything for God.

    Mass is much more about us being receptive to God nourishing us than us bringing our best to God.

    But, he said, when people recognize that the liturgy does not belong to an individual or parish as much as it belongs to the church, then they begin to understand how, while some expressions of local culture are appropriate, priority should be given to expressions of the church’s universal culture.

    What parts belong to the church’s universal culture and which belong to European culture?

    1. What parts belong to the church’s universal culture and which belong to European culture?
      ———————————————
      and who has the job of determining which is which? The CDW, and ecumenical (pan-Roman synod), something rising from papal caprice and taste?

  2. Evidently Sandro Magister is not happy.

    “On the invitation to the conference, in fact, the Institute also printed the announcement of the audience with the pope.

    But then, a few days before the opening of the conference and with the invitations already sent, the prefecture of the pontifical household made it known that there would be no audience, nor any apostolic letter.

    In their place, the pope would simply send a message, in the form of a letter to Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the congregation for education and therefore the grand chancellor of the Institute.

    This took place on the morning of Thursday, May 26, the opening day of the conference. But with another slap in the face. Unlike for all the other papal messages of this kind, this one was not made public by the Holy See press office, nor was it mentioned by Vatican Radio.

    And it’s not finished. The edition of “L’Osservatore Romano” printed on the afternoon of the same day completely ignored both the opening of the conference for the centenary and the pope’s message. Not one line

    http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1348094?eng=y

    Thanks to NLM for the pointing out this link.

    1. Maybe Pope Benedict is getting old, slowing down, and his staff need to plan fewer events for him.

  3. Music in the liturgy, it is said in the letter must have a “sense of prayer, dignity and beauty.”

    By what objective standard is it possible to have a definite understanding of this? This is a highly subjective statement, when it later defines Gregorian Chant and the classical masses as the true (and for some) and only musical expression that captures these criteria. Says who? I would not deny chant and polyphony as such expressions… but who is anyone to define “universal culture?” Come on…

    1. David,
      On Good Friday during the veneration of the cross, one of the musical selections our parish sang was Now We Remain. It was so appropriate, and yes its was prayerful, dignified, and had beauty. I have been reading the posts regarding the role of music in the Liturgy. Over the years I have come to see the need to choose musical forms based on their function. I don’t believe that Gregorian Chant has anything to do with universal identity. I am not opposed to its use, but I don’t think in the world of pastoral reality we can make that claim.
      I want to end on another note. I would like to thank you for always respecting the primary musical instrument of musical Liturgy-that is the human voice. Any other instrument is secondary and supports that voice-including organ, guitar, amplifiers,choirs, schola cantorums and whatever else. My best!

  4. David Haas wrote:
    but who is anyone to define “universal culture?” Come on…

    —————————————-

    Maybe he meant “universal Catholic culture”, meaning chant, polyphony. The stuff he said earlier in the letter.

    Also, I wanted to chime in on the ever-popular propers-vs- hymns conversation. My question is this, “why do I always hear hymns at Mass, and I’ve never heard the chanted propers?” (at a variety of parishes in my diocese). I know Charles C. will tell my to ask the music director, but honestly, it’s hard to ask without appearing to criticize him. And yes, I am involved in the parish music program.

    1. Hey Lumi, I know I resemble that remark! 😉
      But on the slight chance you are in our parish, I really appreciate when folks come up with questions and concerns.
      I just look intimidating; I’m a teddy bear mostly.

  5. “That is to say that it is God nourishing God’s people more than it is the people doing anything for God. Mass is much more about us being receptive to God nourishing us than us bringing our best to God.”
    I’m thinking that Tom Poelker is on to something here that is greater than what appears to the eye and mind initially. And I also think that at the crux of Tom’s distillation of Benedict’s letter is some sort of peep stone through which we ought to earnestly examine the elements of worship from many perspectives, not the least of which include “liturgy: gift from God” and “liturgy: offering back said gift in its best expression from our “hands” back to God.”
    Over at the the Chant Café I took the long and winding road to get across a notion that my colleague and friend Kathy Pluth clarified as me saying “there are way too many ‘Talking Heads’ and not enough thinking about what liturgical music is for.” I think we fall prey to the temptation of answering that question by yammering on about what liturgical music is NOT meant to do. We stumble over our tongues and sometimes our foot ends up in our mouth if we claim we’re not using music to manipulate the emotions of the faithful. I think we earn more time in purgatory each time we defend ourselves from that notion. I think that we err significantly when we unrelentingly argue that our musical refuge is based righteously either upon orthodoxy or heterodoxy. More time. I think we waste time and energy trying to put square people into round chairs and its complement opposite just by saying “you can, and must accept that this is the way it’s supposed to be.” So, what is liturgical music for exactly?

    To read the rest of my commentary click here

  6. We must be docile to the Holy Spirit Who speaks to us and guides us through the Papal Magisterium. Holy obedience is what is called for in these troubled and rebellious times.

    1. “Docility” has its limits. We’ve all received the Holy Spirit, not simply the pope and the bishops. To simply roll over and defer to “the magisterium” when controversial issues arise is to turn the Church into an army of automatons following the dictates of paper pushers and red tape artists abusing their power in order to have their way.

      We’ve seen what the “magisterium” is capable of accomplishing lately and, thank goodness, it is more often than not been honored in the breach rather than in the observance.

  7. I think that we need to start all discussions of church music with the idea the music is an enhancement for liturgy, not essential.

    I have often had the thought that if one were to truly educate a parish in FCAP in liturgy, that, besides a lot of very specific preaching, one should start with taking out of the Sunday Mass everything possible, including music, and deal with what is essential and how to do that well.

    I am in favor of the idea that the primary role of music directors is to support congregational singing, and in most US RC parishes, that requires a lot of work.

    In regard to this pope, he has repeatedly mentioned his love for the church music classics of his youth. We know he had a shock to his sensibilities in 1968-9 with the turns of the youth movements of that time. I do not recall that he has ever shown any positive interest in post-V2 church music. His opinions are pretty predictably subjective, supportive of the music he particularly likes plus a bow to chant, therefor irrelevant..

    1. I think that we need to start all discussions of church music with the idea the music is an enhancement for liturgy, not essential.

      The problem, Tom, is that there is nothing in the official documents or in the history of the liturgy that would suggest that this idea is either true or salutary. An idea much more in accord with tradition is that the entire liturgy is sung.

      1. It’s absolutely true that music is not essential for the liturgy. You can have liturgy with music. If something is essential for something else, you can’t have the thing without out. Therefore, music is not essential for the liturgy.

        However, music is still integral to the liturgy, not merely an external adornment of it. When you have music, it’s a true part of the liturgical action.

  8. “…..one should start with taking out of the Sunday Mass everything possible, including music….”
    All music Tom?
    Sometimes at our evening Masses we strip down to psalm, Gospel greeting, eucharistic acclamations and fraction song. Now that really is music laid bare. But to take away all of it….?

    1. Fritz and Nick,

      Yes, take away all the music, and lots of other things, only to put them back
      later in order of priority as to how they contribute positively to the liturgy.

      Simplify everything. Congregational recitation of Psalms where hymns have been used, for example. Work on the importance of oral delivery of the Scriptures and presider texts. No candles, flowers, ornaments of any kind.

      Go from congregational recitation to congregational chant. Then maybe congregational antiphons with cantor and on to congregational antiphons with choir. Keep the choir option for major feasts thereafter, perhaps.

      Fritz, I have to disagree about the historicity of the entire liturgy being sung. I can not picture that in the house churches. The NT only mentions the singing in addition to what else happened.

      I am suggesting a temporary reduction to barest essentials for purposes of reintroducing elements one at a time with explanations of their functions in the flow of the liturgical action. This has one advantage in not putting the attention on changing individual things which may divide the congregation. At the end, people will notice that some things they used to like are not coming back, but they will know why and will also know what sort of points they need to make to support their return.

      1. Tom,

        Your view of liturgy is enough to make me think that those who go on and on about “organic development” might, in fact, have a point.

        As to the question of early Christian singing: there is, of course, much that we don’t know. But if we presume some continuity between the early church and the synagogue, then the line between “speaking” and “singing” of prayer texts and scriptures was probably not as clear then as it is today. There is nothing is the domestic character of early Christianity that would have prevented the singing of prayer texts.

      2. Tom, I’m intrigued by your question of singing or simply reciting in the house church liturgy. Do we know what that was like in a Greek-speaking gentile group compared to
        recent converts from Judaism? In a mixed setting?

        How would Greek chant, particularly the psalms, have sounded then?

        Are Catholic parishes incapable of singing without an organ/piano? I’ve met some who would just as soon have a low mass with no music, if the organ is broken,or there is no organ/piano/guitarist,etc. to rely upon.
        I think of a few cases where this wasn’t the case. I . I recall was in a parish for French speakers. It had a wonderful French Dominican who sang everything himself. Propers and the common parts in what must have been a popular French chant known by everyone. The people would chime in every now and then. As the spirit moved
        them. It could be wonderfully exhilarating at times.

        In another instance many years ago I popped into a
        tiny Serbian Orthodox Church with only the priest and to two elderly chanters providing all the music for a two hour
        liturgy. They performed their parts beautifully. The
        ten or fifteen members of the congregation, apart from
        making the sign of the cross repeatedly, would also
        jump in as they felt able, or, again, as the spirit moved them. Nobody felt embarrassed because he might be off key, or louder than someone else. Somehow it all worked out and seemed perfectly natural. No sense of, “Oh, we’re on stage. Time to perform”.
        As you suggest, it might make sense to have people start with simple psalm chanting in an introductory office like Morning Prayer or Vespers. No hymns just psalm singing.

      3. Trying to build a music program for the house church built on the NT is a dead end street. If there can be mass with absolutely no music can be answered by the GIRM:

        I would note that while it states it is not necessary to sing everything for weekday masses, it does not include the option of nothing. The second paragaph describes progressive solemnity, See Sttl.

        40. Great importance should therefore be attached to the use of singing in the celebration of the Mass, with due consideration for the culture of the people and abilities of each liturgical assembly. Although it is not always necessary (e.g., in weekday Masses) to sing all the texts that are of themselves meant to be sung, every care should be taken that singing by the ministers and the people is not absent in celebrations that occur on Sundays and on holy days of obligation.

        In the choosing of the parts actually to be sung, however, preference should be given to those that are of greater importance and especially to those to be sung by the priest or the deacon or the lector, with the people responding, or by the priest and people together.49

  9. Samuel J. Howard :

    It’s absolutely true that music is not essential for the liturgy. You can have liturgy with music. If something is essential for something else, you can’t have the thing without out. Therefore, music is not essential for the liturgy.
    However, music is still integral to the liturgy, not merely an external adornment of it. When you have music, it’s a true part of the liturgical action.

    Yes, this is a clearer statement of what I intended to say.

    Please note that “additional” music can be performed which is not integral..It is important when working in liturgy to only use music in an integral way, according to liturgical values and not primarily according to musical values, not just for its beauty but only doing music beautifully where it is already being used in an integral way rather than injected into the liturgical flow.

  10. Is there a confusion between Universal and European and possibly monastic European at that when speaking about music?

    1. I second that question. There is a great deal of fear in Europe over Moslem immigrants. It’s very unfortunate that appreciation of Gregorian chant is even peripherally associated with the effort to maintain cultural (racial?) purity.

      I think the question about monastic European is worth a discussion all its own. Presumably, those who live in monasteries spend a lot of time studying and practicing music. They have the training to be able to chant all the specific Masses for each day in the entire A-B-C liturgical cycle.
      Now consider that in the typical American parish, very few have any training or practice in any singing. Some members may be active in Barbershop groups or community choruses, but they are the exception. Typically, a very small number of people will join choir and spend an hour or two a week preparing music. I think it is foolish to expect the typical parish to emulate the monastic practice of chanted Mass. It is a more reasonable goal to develop a repertoire of hymns that the congregation will actually sing.

      I think the monastic life is important to the Church. The example of monks and nuns offers a challenge to the rest of us to constantly re-examine our lives. Many may visit a monastery for a single retreat or associate themselves with a monastery for on-going support. However, not everyone is called to the monastic life. I think it is foolish to attempt to impose the monastic life on those who are called to do other work.

  11. Tom,

    I have to disagree with you, especially when it comes to stripping the liturgy to its so-called “bare essentials.” You suggest “a temporary reduction to barest essential for purposes of reintroducing elements one at a time with EXPLANATIONS OF THEIR FUNCTIONS in the flow of the liturgical action.” Forgive the Capitals, but I lack the HTML knowhow to italicize or bold.

    This seems to imply that it is the rational understanding or functionality which is key to liturgy. Whatever does not touch us rationally, whatever we do not understand, is unessential and just for the tastes of the parishioners.

    I deny this strongly. If this is the case, it entails that either we are just minds in bodies when it comes to liturgy, or that the mind is all that interacts with the liturgy. Aspects like music are key because we are auditory beings – this isn’t something “rational” per se, but is key to who we are. All of our senses must be involved in the liturgy.

    I do think the house churches sang and chanted. They probably adorned their small altars with whatever bits of beauty they could – a rug from this person’s home, some flowers from that person’s garden, the voices of these families’ children, the scents of incense when it could be obtained. It is not that the liturgy cannot be done without this, but that in the liturgy man must always strive for the greatest beauty in all the senses. Puritanism has been denied every time its reared its head and iconoclasm has been a heresy since Nicea II. Stripping liturgy down is no way to make this clear.

    This also is important in understanding ideas such as an objective understanding of prayer, dignity, and beauty. For the Church, the standard is never man, but God, and most especially Christ, God incarnate. Chant is considered the standard in music because it is at the service of the Word, revealing Christ by uplifting, rather than simply reciting, the revelation.

    Most who talk of differing tastes call man the…

  12. “This seems to imply that it is the rational understanding or functionality which is key to liturgy. Whatever does not touch us rationally, whatever we do not understand, is unessential and just for the tastes of the parishioners.”

    This inference is incorrect.
    Note that I am only proposing a temporary change for the purpose of educating and building up FCAP.

    I think that far too little effort has been put into explaining and demonstrating how liturgy can work in contrast to how rites were celebrated clerically prior to V2.

    Eventually, almost everything need to go back, especially the affectional things.

  13. “They probably adorned their small altars with whatever bits of beauty they could – a rug from this person’s home, some flowers from that person’s garden, the voices of these families’ children, the scents of incense when it could be obtained. It is not that the liturgy cannot be done without this, but that in the liturgy man must always strive for the greatest beauty in all the senses. TD

    I always worry about people basing arguments about liturgy on their own opinions of what earlier Christians probably or certainly or likely did because these arguments have unstated assumptions about what constitutes good liturgy in the writer’s own mind. Such arguments are outside of history and logic.

    In the era of house churches I strongly doubt that they used incense associated with temples and pagan gods and emperor worship.

    On what basis do you say that in liturgy people must strive for the greatest beauty? This strikes me as bringing outside values in additional to specifically liturgical values.

    I am defending the idea that liturgy is basically much simpler than such cultural ambitions such as these, that liturgy is much more about us accepting nurturance from God than about the cultural quality of how we respond to that nurturance.

    If we temporarily eliminate cultural accretions, and recognize them as such, then we are better able to see the basic form of the Mass.
    – Scripture is proclaimed
    – the Scripture interpretation is guided by the leader
    – intercessory prayers are offered
    – in memory of Jesus, we take bread and wine, give thanks for these gifts, share these gifts among ourselves in the form of food
    – we go forth to live what we have learned and shared.

    It is my opinion that too much of what we do during Mass interrupts the flow of these actions or makes these essential actions harder to see.

    That does not mean that I dislike all these other things, but we occasionally need to look at the basic structures.

  14. .

    Mike Burns :

    … I don’t believe that Gregorian Chant has anything to do with universal identity. I am not opposed to its use, but I don’t think in the world of pastoral reality we can make that claim.
    I want to end on another note. I would like to thank you for always respecting the primary musical instrument of musical Liturgy-that is the human voice. Any other instrument is secondary and supports that voice-including organ, guitar, amplifiers,choirs, schola cantorums and whatever else. My best!

    Another very much on target comment!
    It is a pastoral reality that chant, Gregorian for Latin or other forms for other languages, is the basic singing voice of communal prayer.

    Would it not benefit many parishes to have a year of congregational chant except for Christmas and Easter? Would that not help the congregation find its own voice? Could not the accustomed choir members be spread throughout the assembly to support the learning process?

    1. I don’t find the value of using chant or any other musical form for their sake alone. For example, is chant the best musical form for processions? Does it serve the function of the communion procession? Is it the best musical form for full conscious and active participation for the assembly. I think the same can be applied to other musical forms as well, i.e. hymns, canticles, choral pieces.

      1. Gerard, a “musical form” refers in this case not to a kind of music (Merriam Webster’s definition of “form” 9a), but “a particular kind or instance of such [orderly method of] arrangement” e.g. “the sonnet is a poetical form” (Merriam Webster’s definition 10a2. This is made clear by the examples cited by Mike Burns, e.g. “hymns”.

        “Chant”, is not such a form, but rather is a repetoire of music that contains a number of different forms, as I pointed out.

  15. Well, I can turn you’re argument right around and state “simple” is bringing in outside values.

    Historically, the early Church would have grown out of the temple and synagogue worship of the Jews – both involved more than simple proclamations, singing of psalms were integral to both, and involved ritual. Likewise, once the early Christian community spread, they would have encountered the elaborate pagan and mystery cults and people now used to rites which affect all their senses. I find it incredibly hard to believe that rites and rituals which did not appeal to these desires “turned the world upside down.” Even in Acts, it was the great signs which began the conversions. With a full mystery rite, the Divine Liturgy, the Church now has a sign, Christ’s constant entrance into our world able to convert the earth.

    Simple doesn’t seem to be the “base” standard, but a modern interpretation pushed onto human experience to try and understand it. This may be good, clean logic, starting from the most basic assumptions and then building up, but to act purely logically is, well, illogical.

    This is why music and art is intrinsic to the liturgy. They are not adornments for the act, but are natural, nay, necessary manifestations of that act. It is similar to the faith-works dichotomy: faith has primacy (pace belligerent counter-reformationists), but if it does not manifest in works it is dead, only the appearance of faith – faith must manifest works. Romano Guardini speaks of culture flowing from the cult, from the liturgy. Liturgy without this manifestation is not liturgy – it is more akin to the dry run of a seminarian, just trying to get the basic action down but not allowing the divinity to manifest through it.

    There are problems with you’re “basic form of the Mass,” especially point 4.

    I think that a primacy can be found, that which is “essential,” but not separate from how it manifests in beauty. We may be saying the same thing from different…

  16. .

    Fritz Bauerschmidt :

    Tom,
    Your view of liturgy is enough to make me think that those who go on and on about “organic development” might, in fact, have a point.

    Fritz, I suspect that you are reading into a specific proposal for a means of liturgical education an overall view of the liturgy which I have never proposed.

    What I want people to do is to look at basics and examine what has developed before they go on to suggest further changes. Instead of advocating the latest fad diet or exercise equipment, lets make sure we understand the anatomy and physiology and the eating and exercise which are routines for us.

  17. Tom,

    There is no way that you can wipe people’s minds clear and start over again.

    Everyone has been formed by a life time of liturgical experiences, both good and bad. And much of that experience is idiosyncratic.

    Take the psalms. Many people like them, some love them, but others do not.

    Take hymns. Many people like them, some love them, but others do not.

    When I interviewed parish members in a bible study group about their practice of “conversational prayer” I also asked them about psalms and hymns. In all cases there was a wide diversity of experience, from good to bad and everything in between.

    (One side benefit of my interviewing was the discovery that most people are very tolerant of diversity in prayer, not particularly interested in imposing their experiences on others, and willing to take other peoples needs and views in account in planning group events).

    All liturgy is experienced in light of the person’s past experience not the theoretical or actual experiences of the liturgist. That is the problem with most liturgical catechesis; it tries to transfer one person’s mind and experience into another person.

    Most liturgists are unwilling to take seriously the diverse experience of people and begin there. You can modify liturgical experience but only gradually. Slight changes are more easily accepted than larger changes. Changes that are similar to things that people already know and like are more likely to be accepted and liked than other changes. This is just basic psychology.

    I spent a lot of time on reform and renewal in the public mental health system. It takes a lot of time and patience, and allowing people to change at their own pace and in their own ways, and it all began with people understanding one another and their diverse needs. Community building precedes renewal and reform. Ideas can be catalysts, but a catalyst even when essential only facilitates a process it is not an element of the process.

  18. If anyone would like to see a summary of my actual views on liturgy, I have posted my list of Specifically Liturgical Values on my Practical-Liturgist blog.

    You can reach the current post on my blog by clicking on my underlined name in the header for this comment.

    Please post comments regarding my blog there, rather than putting comments here which would end up with changing the discussion here to be about me rather than liturgy.

  19. I’m also unclear on “universal identity”. Just in the Roman church we now have the Ordinary, the Extraordinary, and the forthcoming Anglican patrimony forms of liturgy. Expand that to all the various churches in communion with Rome, how is Gregorian Chant more expressive of universal identity than Ambrosian (another form of the Tradition which gave us the Roman Canon) or various Byzantine, Coptic, and Syrian chants and musical forms? And then given the developmental and evolutionary currents of liturgy (it has developed, it has evolved, sometimes organically, sometimes not) as it passes through the ages, what about Gregorian Chant helps the liturgy (both God’s nourishing the Church and the Church’s worship of God) move through the currents of our modern, postmodern, postChristian, preIslamic persecution, preMillennial moment? Oh, and don’t forget the Apocalypse.

  20. It seems to me that Tomas and Jack are arguing with me about things which I have not said.

    I have proposed a possible technique of parish liturgical education, not a major reform of how things will henceforward be done in said parish. Please note that just because I did not go into detail about when and how I would re-introduce those elements the two gentlemen care so much about does not mean that I have no intention to re-introduce them. Congregational Psalm recital, followed by congregational Psalm chanting are steps along the way to re-establishing a program of liturgical music.

    Jack is entirely correct that community formation is a necessary element and a pastoral consideration as to how one goes about any kind of parish education. Again, just because I did not mention it does not mean that I am unaware of its importance.

    Tomas, I would agree that music is natural to liturgy, but not that it is essential or intrinsic. I do not propose any particular model of how house church liturgies actually were practiced, nor do I think anyone else can support anything stronger than negatives or positives about possibilities.

    I would like to read more about your opinion of point 4.

    1. Congregational Psalm recital, followed by congregational Psalm chanting are steps along the way to re-establishing a program of liturgical music.

      This strikes me a bit like saying that what is important about the song “Happy Birthday” is that it expresses our wish that the anniversary of a particular person’s birth be a pleasant occasion, so we should try simply reciting it for a year in order to attain clarity on its essential purpose.

      1. This strikes me as saying that there is no problem with the basic understanding of liturgy or liturgical music in the average US parish and that we should just keep trying to do what we have been trying to do for the past four decades. What position are you taking here, Fritz, other than just being uncomfortable with what I am proposing?

      2. I am taking the position of Aidan Kavanagh that “One sings at celebrations” (Elements of Rite, 31). To banish singing from the Sunday liturgy, even temporarily for a pedagogical purpose, will not help but will rather distort the assembly’s understanding of the liturgy. Perhaps one might want to temporarily (or permanently) banish instrumental music from the liturgy so that the assembly can rediscover its voice. Perhaps one might want to restore the practice of singing the dialogues so that people don’t think of music as an ornamentation that is incidental to the liturgical action. There are lots of things that can be done to help our understanding of the role of music in liturgy. But my position is that eliminating singing is not one of them.

    2. Tom,

      Your proposal would not work even as parish education because people will not accept your premises.

      About 2/3 of people want singing at Mass, most of the rest don’t care one way or another and only a single digit minority is opposed to singing. No one would want to put up with an unsung Mass even as education. I could go to a daily unsung 30 minute Mass, but I never go. I do not experience it as a worthy celebration of the Mass.

      I doubt that people would agree to your substitution of psalms for hymns, even though they appreciate the sung psalm during the readings. From my interviews with people, not enough of them are familiar with the psalms to venture full speed ahead into substituting recited psalms for hymns. I would not even substitute all sung psalms for hymns, but I might try using a few more carefully chosen sung or chanted psalms. If the level of dissatisfaction with hymns is still about 40% then psalms might be able to find more use.

      Although the Mass was originally a meal, already in St. Paul that was on its way out. A lot of other things including hymns, speaking in tongues, and prophecy were coming in. The Mass evolved beyond the house Mass. In the seventies and eighties I participated in a few house Masses. They were very unsatisfactory, a romantic idea. One couple celebrated their daughter’s first communion with a house Mass concelebrated by three priest friends! I thought that was unhealthy step backwards. Now the agape was celebrated for a while separately from the Mass. I am all for Sunday Brunch’s, Dinners and socials. But I think the nature of the Mass demands a sizeable community, public celebration, and singing. The Church has evolved.

      1. “I could go to a daily unsung 30 minute Mass, but I never go. I do not experience it as a worthy celebration of the
        Mass”

        I don’t either for the same reasons. So, why did the
        Vatican restore the private mass in the EF at a time
        when the pope is talking about the worthy celebration
        of Mass and restoring beauty to it? The private Mass,
        in my view, is anything but that.

  21. Why can’t we appreciate music for its beauty rather than turning it into a weapon in the arsenals of the Left and the Right and all who define Tradition according to a romanticized conception of their favorite era, at whatever point they might prefer to freeze time?

    Lord have mercy.

  22. Clearly people here are not familiar with Mass in Ireland. “They have music at Mass?” “No, it’d cause it to run past 20 minutes.” OK, that’s mostly mid-week.

    1. Well, seeing as you raised the subject, the principal issue on the mind of clergy celebrating Sunday liturgy in, say, the USA or Australia (“how am I gonna get the carpark empty in time for the next Mass?”) can hardly apply in Ireland, where there are fewer cars, and even fewer people (celebrant and attending Religious included) sober enough on Sunday morning to drive!!!

  23. I noticed the question by composer David Haas on propers with interest. From here in Sydney (Australia) where I direct a suburban parish choir of 35 voices, I can report that we sing propers each Sunday at our principal mass. Introit in English (Gregorian tones, during the incensation of the altar, and we sing the Latin Gregorian on major feasts), Gospel acclamation in English, and the communio (Gregorian in Latin during the communion of the clergy, with psalm verses where needed). We use sequences where indicated also (English or Latin). I can also report that here in our Cathedral, the Gregorian propers are sung at each principal Sunday mass.

  24. #29 Samuel Howard
    For some reason I cannot reply above. Gregorian Chant is a musical form . A hymn is not chant. You are confusing liturgical text and musical form.

    1. I don’t understand. The office hymns aren’t chant? I don’t understand why an office hymn and an offertory (which are different musical forms) can’t both be chant, just like an aria and a recitative (different musical forms) can’t both be operatic.

  25. #31 Samuel Howard
    Samuel,
    You are misrepresenting what I said. Gregorian Chant is a musical form. It has its own structure and form. It is not as you say a repertiore. When you take a text and apply the system of Gregorian Chant you now have a musical form. I hope this clears things up.

  26. Bottom line, the Vat II Council stated that Chant was to be given first place in the Liturgy and yet you can go to many a Parish Church or Cathedral and not hear it for a lifetime. There is something wrong in that. It appears the old adage of “give an inch and they will take a mile” is what has occured. Hymns, and Psalmody was not to have replaced Gregorian Chant or dislodged it from its’ proper role in the Liturgy or it would have been decreed by the Council. They said the opposite and that is not what has happened. If it is proper to the Liturgy as has been stated by not just this Pope, but many others, then no Catholic should go years or a lifetime without ever hearing it at Mass. The crux of the matter has been its’ suppression, prohibition and abolition in most places. And the attitude of Priests and Liturgy “officers” when one inquires about it.

  27. Mike Burns : Over the years I have come to see the need to choose musical forms based on their function. I don’t believe that Gregorian Chant has anything to do with universal identity. I am not opposed to its use, but I don’t think in the world of pastoral reality we can make that claim.

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