Jeffrey Tucker on “Five Ways to Ruin the Mass”

I believe that this article is worthy of our thoughtful (not splenetic) discussion.

At the original site there are 205 comments as of this posting here; a few of these comments have real merit.

On two other lists Michael Joncas, Gordon Truitt, and J. Michael Thompson have weighed in thoughtfully. I am hoping they will post here as well so that we can benefit. I don’t believe it is proper for me to quote them without their permission.

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105 comments

  1. I have various views on many of the topics, but the one that I feel strongest about is the sign of peace. While I realize it has historical and (in some circles) theological ties to the consecration and communion, it feels better suited to conclude the confession of sin and absolution.

  2. What is striking about this is that the Ordinary Form of the Mass really doesn’t need much more tinkering and perhaps none at all. Sobriety seems to be the ethos of the Latin Rite Mass, yet, exaggerations have crept in here and there in the process of renewal these past 50 years. Keep the sign of peace where it is just keep it sober and make sure people understand what it means at that point in the Mass. Keep music, but keep instrumentation and style sober and keep it simple and don’t improvise. Simplicity seems to be the key in this article by Jeffrey Tucker and fidelity to the sobriety of the Latin Rite and its texts.

  3. I would add to JT’s list three MIGHTY ways that the Mass has been perennially “ruined”:

    1. The Tyranny of Time
    2. The Tyranny of Routine (as opposed to truly ritualized)
    3. The Tryanny of Minimalism

  4. Two thoughts: Is it truly sober that we are hoping for in the best celebration of the liturgy, or an abiding reverence?

    What data (not anecdote, but properly obtained data) exists on the degeneration of the exchange of peace into a micro-social hour. How long does it last in most churches? How many people say anything other than “Peace be with you.” or some variant? Is this, like clown masses, a very small problem, or a widespread issue in need of regulation?

    An exchange of peace that includes social conversation simply has not been my experience anywhere (and in the last decade I’ve attended Mass on three continents and in many different settings). Is this really a top five problem? An overly lively sign of peace is more detrimental to the life of a parish than regularly mediocre preaching?

    1. @Michelle Francl-Donnay – comment #4:
      I’ve certainly experienced the micro-social hour (great term) on many occasions, but maybe I hang out with a different cohort. But even though I might like to rein it in a bit, I agree that it doesn’t “ruin” the Mass.

      As to “newsy” prayers of the faithful: again, I like to keep these short, but is it really so bad if they reflect what is actually going on in the life of the community? Is that what is meant by “newsy”?

      On the sung propers: neglect of these might make my top 100 ways to make Mass less than it might be, but among the top five ways to ruin Mass? Really? Are the appointed texts for the introit, offertory, and communio (and it is the texts we’re talking about here, not the music) really so integral to the Mass that it is ruined, or even significantly harmed, by their omission? Sometime the text of an introit has nothing to do with the other propers of the Mass. For example, the text of the introit for the 4th Sunday of Lent, “Laetare Jerusalem: et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis eam…” seems to be related to the stational church in Rome where that Sunday is celebrated, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme — a connection of dubious relevance to most Mass goers outside of Rome. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a wonderful introit and I would be thrilled to have it on the 4th Sunday of Lent. But its absence hardly ruins Mass.

      As to the point about percussion: perhaps I should refrain since I am the parent of a percussionist. But I will say that the general thrust of that remark trades on a sacred/profane distinction that I think Christianity at least problematizes, even if it does not obliterate it. Baptism and Eucharist retain an stubborn hint of the bathroom and the slaughterhouse, so perhaps it’s not too awful if their liturgical setting has a hint of the dance hall about it.

      1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #6:

        ” Are the appointed texts for the introit, offertory, and communio (and it is the texts we’re talking about here, not the music) really so integral to the Mass that it is ruined, or even significantly harmed, by their omission? ”

        I am not sure that Jeffrey Tucker specified that it is only the texts he had in mind in making this point; and his points about percussion and pianos suggest, to me, anyway, that the music itself is one of his concerns.

        It is true, as a couple of commenters have noted, that there doesn’t seem to be a widespread demand for chant and polyphony coming from the pews. But I’ve never been an advocate of liturgical planning by democratic majority. That is the path to least-common-denominatorism.

        My own view is that our worship would be enriched if ways could be found to integrate, not only the proper texts but also the chanted or polyphonic settings of those texts, into our Sunday and holy day worship to a broader extent than is now the case. It would be more fun for the choir, too.

        One of the curiosities of liturgical law is that, for a hundred years now, Rome repeatedly has instructed the rest of us that Gregorian chant is proper to the Roman Rite, and chant and polyphony enjoy pride of place. That the Holy See is so repetitive on this point, surely indicates that its earnest advice is largely ignored. I would like to see more people take the advice than is now the case. We might be pleasantly surprised.

        I can only speak to my own experience, but my experience is that a well-sung polyphonic liturgical setting induces a different reaction of joy in me than a well-performed praise band piece. Both experiences have their merits, but they strike different chords in the human person – at least in me. My heart is lifted in a different way. I would have more of us experience that uplift.

  5. Dear Paul, I did not keep a copy of my response to points 4 and 5 of Mr. Tucker’s short article for the LITNETWK blog, so if you do have a copy and are able to post it at Pray, Tell, feel free.

  6. In order:
    1) I agree that ad libbing liturgical texts is a bad idea, but I think the problem is overstated. In the parishes I frequent I don’t see it. I can recall one of the Franciscans at the Catholic Center taking a moment to explain a prayer in what I took as a good faith teaching effort, and that was unusual.
    2) I disagree with his argument about the prayers of the faithful to the extent that he is against prayers concerning current events. I headed up a group at a former parish that prepared the prayers for about five years and the whole point of doing that was to have topical prayers of concern to the parish. Are we not supposed to pray for the victims of tornadoes? Or is that too newsy? Yes, they tend to ramble and yes, they might benefit from editing, but he’s way wrong on the newsy part.
    3) Sign of peace – recent discussions agree that it shouldn’t be social hour, but it’s hard to change the habits of loving people
    4) Sung propers – I am old enough to have been an altar boy prior to the changes in VII. I can not recall ever hearing a proper sung. I have listened to samples “Simple English Propers” on Chant Cafe and they are lovely. BUT, the guy that sings them can’t go around to each parish and sing them and not that many parishes have that talent at their fingertips. Plus, I don’t think the congregation is going to sing them (they are different foreach Mass so the congregation has no chance to learn them) and then it becomes more of a solo piece for the guy with the voice. If I am forced to make a choice, I choose parish participation.
    5) Okay, I don’t like percussion either, but that’s a cultural choice on my part. I am pretty sure the timbrel is a percussion instrument and intended for praise. The argument that it is inherently not for worship seems wrong to me.

  7. Through the kindness of Fr. Ruff my comments on the LITNETWK blog have been retrieved and he has suggested I post them here. I normally do not enter into these discussions for a variety of reasons, but I would like to respond to points ##4 and 5 in Mr. Tucker’s short article. It will take a few comboxes to do so:

    Jason J. McFarland’s _Announcing the Feast: The Entrance Song in the Mass of the Roman Rite_ (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2011) provides a much more careful reading of both the history of and the present liturgical legislation concerning the opening music in the Mass of the Roman Rite than appears in Mr. Tucker’s set of assertions. McFarland notes: “Almost immediately after the implementation of the Vatican II liturgical reforms began, two directions for the future of liturgical music were set in motion. One — the congregational singing of Gregorian chant — is firmly rooted in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century liturgical movement…. The other…sought to make the postconciliar rites more accessible to local congregations, more reflective of local cultural traditions, and more open to culture-specific musical forms and texts…. What we need is a ‘new synthesis’ of the two directions in the postconciliar development of liturgical music…. Those committed to the first direction must remember that the Gregorian chant is itself a result of cultural adaptation of at least two older chant traditions (Frankish and Old Roman) and that Renaissance choral polyphony is the creative response of sixteenth and seventeenth-century composers to the proper chant traditions. Thus neither chant nor polyphony is inherently unchangeable, superior, universally appropriate, or sacred — it is their liturgical context and tradition of use that give them pride of place. Those committed to the second direction are sometimes so fervently opposed to anything that hints of liturgical traditionalism that they instinctively reject the use of Gregorian chant and polyphony, [cont.]

  8. forgetting that even the most contemporary liturgical music is based on centuries-old formal and tonal systems….” (203-205 passim).

    But even more important than this sane plea for synthesis, is McFarland’s set of implications drawn from the inherently multivalent nature of liturgical symbols, rites and texts: “First, orthopraxis — which involves such things as quality performance and active participation — and orthodoxy — which requires theologically sound and high-quality texts — are both crucial. The message communicated must not be foreign to the (admittedly broad) Catholic theological tradition, and the song must be successfully sung if it is to put forward its multivalent message. Second, cultural adaptation and musical formation are essential. If a song is foreign to a particular context or has not been made familiar through formation, it cannot achieve its purpose. Third, if liturgical symbols, rites, and texts are truly multivocal and multivalent, no entrance song is inherently incompatible with a particular culture. This fact can temper any trend toward cultural hyperspecificity in the choice of liturgical music. Fourth and finally, this dialectic of customs needs to be operative in the choice and creation of musical settings and texts. It is a complex task, continually to be worked out in practice, but it promises to bear fruit in more effective celebrations of the liturgy.” (206) [cont.]

  9. There was a time in church history when the most important part of the Mass was entirely improvised by the priest “thanking God as he was able to do so.” Whatever minor changes I may make to any text, however “illicit”, is motivated by a desire to pray in a way that is comprehensible to those who are listening or expected to respond. In the TLM, this is irrelevant since those who favor it believe that it is entirely directed to God and that only with these precise words muttered in Latin can God be given worship in spirit and truth. For 40 years I’ve been praying with English language syntax and word order, and with texts that are easily comprehensible to those offering the Mass with me. The slight changes do not in any way alter the substance of the prayer nor do they distort the faith of the church. I was bemused in reading the directive about adding Joseph to the EP. I didn’t know I needed permission to integrate the Saint of the day into EPII in the commemoration of the Saints. “With St. Rose and all the saints who have pleased you throughout the ages.” Or even in the preface, “And so with the angels, St. Boniface, and all the saints…”
    The suggestion that there is a widespread practice of priests making things up as they go along, is a calumny. Those who believe this should know better.
    Replacing sung propers with other music is routine practice in most parishes that have priests and music directors who are more interested in providing the people with music they can sing than being ecclesiastically correct. Those selections should be well informed and based more than just on the musical tastes and preferences of the folks in charge.
    My list of five ways to ruin the Mass:
    1)Use enough incense to set off people’s asthma and allergies.
    2)Wear lacy albs and vestments that look like museum pieces.
    3)Have a priest who hides his personality under layers of piety.
    4)Run all the parts together so we can exit “on time”.
    5)A priest who doesn’t bless children in the communion process because it…

  10. So, aside from the foregoing, aside from what I believe to be a category mistake of thinking that “proper” chants in this context means “normative” when in fact it means textually “variable” (contrasting with “ordinary chants” meaning those that are generally invariable textually in the Ordo Missae), AND aside from the fact that Mr. Tucker acknowledges that the present legislation makes both the texts to be sung (the Missal antiphon in Latin or in vernacular translation, the Graduale Romanum in Latin or in vernacular translation, Graduale Simplex in Latin or in vernacular translation, a chant from some other collection of psalms and antiphons approved by a conference of bishops or a diocesan bishop, or some other liturgical chant suited to the sacred action, the day, or the time of year, similarly approved) and the method of singing them (recto tono, Gregorian chant, vernacular monody, polyphony, a capella or accompanied) facultative, I suppose one might be persuaded by his arguments. [cont.]

  11. With reference to Mr. Tucker’s arguments against the use of percussion instruments in Roman Rite worship, he would find some support in Pius X’s _Tra le sollecitudini_ where the then-reigning Holy Father believed he could identify categories of instruments that were unworthy of Catholic worship in se, without reference to how they were played, what they were playing, what the ritual contexts were in which they were playing, or what the cultural contexts were in which the instruments were situated. Later liturgical legislation has not maintained such judgments, but instead made reference to the kinds of categories listed in the previous sentence. This is probably best seen in SC 120 where the Council Fathers expressly indicate that in addition to the pipe organ “other instruments also may be admitted for use in divine worship, with the knowledge and consent of the competent territorial authority, as laid down in Art. 22, 52, 37, and 40. This may be done, however, only on condition that the instruments are suitable, or can be made suitable, for sacred use, accord with the dignity of the temple, and truly contribute to the edification of the faithful.” Mr. Tucker may judge that percussion instruments and pianos cannot be made suitable for sacred use, but at least in the West they are not dedicated to particular tribal gods or goddesses and thus would need exorcisms in order to be played in Catholic worship. He may hold that they do not accord with the acoustic space of a great cathedral, but they may in fact work quite well in other acoustic spaces. As for their ability to edify the faithful, this would seem to be a matter of the way in which these instruments were played, the repertoire chosen for them, and the ritual settings in which they were employed.

    I hope these comments are helpful and not splenetic.

  12. Regarding #5 (and a few others as well):
    This is certainly a white Caucasian mindset. I think a multi-cultural or catholic (with a small “C”) lens would question whether Mass is ruined with the use of percussion.

  13. 1. Improvisation. In the large suburban parishes in my area there are a variety of slight variations in the text of the liturgy. I have only ever met one person who was disturbed by them (one young priest was very folksy, Friends instead of disciples). He gave a long list of complaints to me as a member of the pastoral council, wanted a 30 minute Mass without singing on Sunday; I gave it to the pastor who thanked me and told the council he would handle the matter. He did nothing about it; I don’t think he even talked to the guy.

    2. Prayer of the Faithful. Again not much of a problem. Occasionally there is an item that might be seen by some as having an political agenda in its wording. I think a lot of people expect us to be a part of our world and pray for victims of hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.

    3. Sign of Peace. Not very extended. People at the end of the pew might leave it and walk a pew or two in either direction. Not that chatty except when people have not met each other for some time and did not get a chance to great each other before Mass.

    4. Sung Propers. Unheard of in my area. I don’t think other than a small minority of the members of the parishes, probably even most of the choir members, would even know what they are. Personally I will be glad if we can just keep the Praise music confined to the Teen Life Mass!. I find it really boring but more than just the teens seem to like it. It has a lot lot more support going for it both among ministers (including music ministers) and people than the Propers in my area of the world.

    5. Percussion. This is on the upswing both in my area and in the recent random study of Catholic congregations. I like it; give us a lot more percussion. I presume bells count as percussion. We are really getting a lot of them with large bell choirs, both adults and children. But we are also getting a lot of drums. I like both of them.

    In my area, Jeffrey Tucker’s complaints would be rung and drummed out of church.

  14. I disagree with Dr. Ford. Jeffrey Tucker’s article is not worthy of our thoughtful discussion, amply demonstrated by these first fifteen comments.

  15. With reference to Mr. Tucker’s arguments against the use of percussion instruments in Roman Rite worship, he would find some support in Pius X’s _Tra le sollecitudini_ where the then-reigning Holy Father believed he could identify categories of instruments that were unworthy of Catholic worship in se, without reference to how they were played, what they were playing, what the ritual contexts were in which they were playing, or what the cultural contexts were in which the instruments were situated.

    Tra le Sollecititudini doesn’t say that these instruments are inherently unworthy of Catholic worship, it says that they are not to be used and calls some “frivolous and noisy.” That the speech act of legislating could somehow occur outside of the context of the employment of these instruments is not possible. Pope Pius X bans them and characterizes them in a cultural context. He doesn’t call them “inherently evil” or anything. Furthermore, he explicitly considers many of your list of criteria in the same section in regards to strings, bands, etc.

  16. Fr. Ron Krisman : I disagree with Dr. Ford. Jeffrey Tucker’s article is not worthy of our thoughtful discussion, amply demonstrated by these first fifteen comments.

    Father Ron,

    I’m sorry you think this way. Father Michael Joncas’s remarks at 9, 10, 12, and 13 seem to suggest otherwise. I myself will weigh in when I find a moment. I am on deadline on another project however.

    Blessings,
    Paul

  17. Never having been accused of being a progressive , I have lots of thoughts about this article.,.many of which are simply not charitable, so they will not be written here.

    About propers:

    (1) Even in the days before the revision of the Liturgy in the Roman Catholic Church, the sung propers of the Mass (Introit, Gradual, Alleluia or Tract, Offertory, and Communion) did not march in lock-step with the Lectionary. Indeed, the order of them, especially during the weekdays of Lent (cf the Communion antiphons) and during the Sundays of the post-Pentecost season (cf the Introits) were psalmodic texts which were sung in numerical order.

    (2) The GIRM talks about four options for entrance and communion singing. They are:

    (a) the antiphon with its psalm from the “Graduale Romanum;”
    “as set to music there or in another setting;”
    (b) the antiphon and psalm of the “Graduale Simplex” for the liturgical time;
    (c) a chant from another collection of psalms and antiphons
    approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop,
    including psalms arranged in responsorial or metrical forms;
    (d) another liturgical chant that is suited to the sacred action, the day, or the time of year,
    similarly approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop.

    The GIRM also adds:

    If there is no singing at the Entrance, the antiphon given in the Missal is recited either by the faithful, or by some of them, or by a reader; otherwise, it is recited by the Priest himself, who may even adapt it as an introductory explanation.

    (3) Much of the stuff from J. Tucker and from J. Ostrowski and their compatriots has this much validity—the publishers and the liturgical gurus from the time of the 1969 liturgical changes have ignored (for all practical purposes) the existence of options 1 and 2. No attempt was made to have translations of the propers from the “Graduale Romanum” made, or to do settings of these texts that could be used in parish churches. The “Graduale…

  18. Jeffrey is earnest, passionate, and certainly a man of strong opinion. When speaking with him person to person, he is reasonable, generous, and perceptive.

    When he’s on his internet soapbox, it’s another story.

    His article would seem to move against what the Catholic laity have been telling us for the last two generations.

    1. We need better preaching. The assembly gets that the occasional aside isn’t part of the Mass. They don’t necessarily want a clean plate; they want a nourishing one. And if the peas mix with the gravy which overlaps the pork chop, that’s not too bothersome.

    2. We need to attend to hospitality. People in modern culture, whether they articulate it or not, crave community. Attend to that before and after Mass, and make real friends among one’s visitors, seekers, newcomers, and lasso the parish population into spearheading that ministry–then we’ll have something.

    3. We need excellent music. It’s a matter less of repertoire and more of formation for pastoral musicians. Jeffrey has a program he wants to sell, and he dedicates a lot of time and e-space to it. Less skilled musicians will butcher his Propers as badly as they would any genre of music you put in front of them. He wants Propers? Fine. Then produce a repertoire of thousands of pieces for congregational singing that are superior to what’s out there now. I dare him.

    4. Silence is an overlooked, underappreciated virtue.

    5. Karl has it right on minimalism.

    Jeffrey’s issues, not so much. My sense is that we move along–there’s not much of substance with them.

  19. For the past year I have spent about half of my Sundays doing Mass tourism, that is, going to Mass in parishes where I have never been before and might never go again. The liturgy is wildly diverse. I have been in assemblies of size 10000 and in assemblies of size 1, in churches that are 1000 years old and in dining rooms made into a makeshift worship space, Latin Masses according to the EF and Masses with percussions and more things than I could have imagined.

    In the end, one of the things that strikes me is that, in spite of all that diversity, it is still the one Mass. The essence is the same everywhere. I go to a new place, I am surprised by the way in which they do this or that, sometimes it’s off-putting, but in the end, it’s the Mass anyway.

    Every one of the 5 items on the list seems to me to be about style: they do not change the essence.

    Personally, I am happiest when the Mass is uplifting, and for me, although beauty helps, the most important feature is whether I have the impression that people around me are praying. In some places they convey that by their silence and by the presider’s attention to his task, and in other places by their joyful noises and the easily shared love and good feelings; but no matter how they convey it, whenever I have the impression that I am in a prayerful community, I am lifted up by the prayer of the people gathered.

    It is very rare that the Mass is “ruined” for me, but some of my unhappiest experiences, where I was either distracted or unable to follow, have been
    1. When the presider was a known sexual abuser
    2. When the homilist was offensive, sexist and antiSemitic, and people seemed to like it
    3. When the Mass was in a foreign language that I did not understand, and there were few gestures that would have helped me follow
    4. When the setting was so objectively uncomfortable that I couldn’t think of anything except the physical discomfort
    5. Actually there is no number 5. I can’t think of any other problem that I could not eliminate by staying…

    1. @Claire Mathieu – comment #22:

      It is very rare that the Mass is “ruined” for me

      Agree, and in my case it is usually my own fault since I had expectations, e.g. of a sung EP that were not fulfilled. Most of the time I expect a certain mediocrity with regard to the homily and music, and therefore when I get something better I am pleased. As long as the priest and/or people are prayerful in whatever way they express themselves however mediocre that might be, I am usually comfortable with the Mass.

      I just hope that Jeffrey and the CMAA gets off the “reform of the reform” bandwagon which is going nowhere, and gets back to making the chant tradition accessible widely in our parishes.

      KLS #28 has the right approach

      Regarding the Propers: If there’s one way to kill a gradual familiarization of propers, it’s overarguing and overselling them. It’s a big disservice to the propers. Much more modest approaches are more likely to produce durable fruit. My own view is that congregations should be familiarized with all the options permitted, with regularity over the long term, so that congregations can make informed discernment about the merits and demerits of the various options.

      and J, Michael Thompson #24 whose St. Peter recordings of East and West I treasure, would that we had music like that in our parishes.

      in addition to, not in replacement of, metrical hymnody)

      If there is anything worse than overarguing and overselling them, it is bundling the Propers with a whole set of complaints about the Mass. The evidence from the Vibrant Parish Life study and my own experience is that most of us Catholics have adapted to the mediocrity of our parish masses. We put up with it; we don’t complain.

      But we long for is something more than mediocrity. Stop the wining and bashing and slowly patiently give us those greater possibilities and let us discover whether or not they rise above mediocrity. Unfortunately the chant in the parish of my youth did not. Agree with Todd #21, item 3 “we need excellent music”.

  20. sorry, the my post was too long and was mechanically clipped.

    The “Graduale Simplex” was finally made available by Dr. Paul F. Ford in his work, “By Flowing Waters.” But it is only lately that forms of the propers from the “Graduale Romanum” have been available from Roman Catholic sources. (I say “Roman Catholic” because there have been several notable projects by Episcopalian musicians such as J. Mason Martens—may his memory be eternal—and Bruce Ford, providing the Gregorian chant forms of the Mass propers in English.)

    (4) To underscore this—the Mass sung propers are not NECESSARILY supposed to reinforce the Lectionary texts. There are notable exceptions, especially in the Communions, which often quote from the Gospel of the Day. That does not mean that the propers are irrelevant. Sometimes, the propers reinforce the “theme of the day”—see, for example, the newer Introit for the Second Sunday in Lent, “Tibi dixit cor meum.” Given the focus of the season on the Elect, singing the text “My heart declared to you: ‘Your countenance have I sought; I shall ever seek your face, O Lord; do not turn your face from me.” along with the psalm “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” makes tremendous sense, both fitting in with the periscope of the Transfiguration which we read on Lent II, and with the journey of those moving toward the mysteries of initiation at the Easter Vigil. But it “fits in” with the specific periscopes only tangentially. That’s why the concept of everything MATCHING the specific Lectionary texts is not always a good idea.

    I’m sorry to wax prolix on this—but the concept of singing the Mass Propers (in addition to, not in replacement of, metrical hymnody) has been something dear to my heart since I started in music ministry back in the very late 1960s. If we had been more open to it THEN—we wouldn’t be living with what JT and his cohorts are harping on now.

    J. Michael Thompson
    Pittsburgh, PA

    1. @J. Michael Thompson – comment #24:
      My issue with the propers is not that they don’t match, but that they don’t even attempt to harmonize, especially in ordinary time. It’s an oversimplification to expect every Bible passage at Mass to be variations on a single theme. But it’s not to much to expect they be pulling in the same direction on any given Sunday. Including the long stretches of ordinary time.

      I think the Roman Missal itself is impoverished in this regard. No three-year cycle. Not enough selections from the Prophets, from Wisdom literature, and from New Testament canticles.

      My sense is that some composers, even going back to the late 60’s, were indeed doing pioneer work in setting psalms and the more lyrical sections of the Bible. But Jeffrey would likely dismiss that because of the use of percussion instruments.

      The bottom line is to consider carefully what we need today, in non-monastic communities, in parishes that struggle to evangelize and devote a decent fraction of their budgets and efforts to music and liturgy. What will serve people best: this is the challenge. Not what is most faithful to a bygone era and to approaches to sacred music that have long jumped the shark.

    2. @J. Michael Thompson – comment #24:

      Michael, I am so pleased, almost to the point of mortification, that you have decided to surface here at PTB. NPM ’91 was the last time I saw you and Dr. P.Ford together, and both of you have had such a great influence upon my local ministry. I still wax on and on about Schola S.P. in the Loop!

      Surely Jeff Tucker presents as no secret to anybody deeply in our little nook, so I needn’t comment any further, tho’ I remain loyal to CMAA. And I’ll stop calling you “Shirley.” Still being Charles from California, obnoxious as ever.

  21. Ok, I just remembered an instance that can serve as #5:

    5. When the choir singers are out of tune and the two lead singers are competing to drown out each other’s voice, both of them off key but in different ways.

    I did try to pray at that Mass, but it was pretty hard!

    1. @Claire Mathieu – comment #25:
      PSTD moment: evening Mass of Pentecost at a parish just west of Rochester NY, where a quartet schola, all miked, had a tenor singing noticeably flat and soprano noticeably sharp.

  22. Re: Mr. Howard’s comment at #17: TLS #19 reads in English translation: “The employment of the piano is forbidden in church, as is also that of noisy or frivolous instruments such as drums, cymbals, bells and the like.” Now you and I who have had the advantage 🙂 of working with speech act theory know that it would be impossible for Pius X to make such a claim without involving himself in a net of signification. But such was not the intellectual horizon in 1903. I read the text to say that the use of the piano is forbidden because of something inherently wrong with it (in se), since there are no cases in which the repertoire it plays, the actual performance of that repertoire, the connection it has with the ritual, its appropriateness to the acoustic space, etc., can “redeem” it. You and I know from the distance of a century and from the development of ethnomusicology that this was a limited cultural judgment, but I don’t think that was Pius X’s thought world (as witnessed by his claim that Gregorian chant is proper to the Roman Church, when in fact it is proper to the Roman Rite); I think he may have been more influenced by a kind of Platonic ethos theory that held that not only were there “bad” “unmanly” modes, but “bad” instruments in se. But I can also see your point, that the characterization of other instruments as “noisy and frivolous” represents a judgment about their use, when I understand it to be a judgment about their being (i.e., like the piano they are simply forbidden in [Roman Rite?] worship because there is no situation, repertoire, or method of playing them that can overcome their fundamental defect of being noisy and frivolous in se). Thanks for this fun excursion into some of the thickets of interpretation theory.

  23. About the newsie Prayers of the Faithful: I could be projecting my own very strong sense of about crafting the General Intercessions (I led a parish group that did this for a few years in the 1990s), but my concern is that we keep the intercessions sufficiently general and universal and *presumptively avoid* news-cycle topicality. A local community may have good local reasons for what might be called a more local intention on a temporary basis, but when the intercessions key off the news cycle with regularity, one should confront a pattern of hallow thinking. And, if praying for a very particular need, it should be joined a universalized version of that (we don’t only pray for X who is dying, but as well for all those who are dying)….

    1. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #27:

      A local community may have good local reasons for what might be called a more local intention on a temporary basis, but when the intercessions key off the news cycle with regularity, one should confront a pattern of hallow thinking.

      When I was a kid, my neighborhood parish would consistently pray for an end to The Troubles (sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland) in every single Prayer of the Faithful, for years. I don’t self-identify as anything but American, but many of the parishioners were proudly “Irish” with the surnames to match (even the priests). Not surprisingly, many of the people of the parish marched behind a pro-Irish Republican banner in the town parade every year.

      As much all Catholics must pray for the end of any sectarian, internecine violence, and especially violence between Christians, pushing a political agenda to the extent described is highly inappropriate for Mass. I do not find it inappropriate to pray for a peace in all current conflicts and also to pray especially for the welfare of refugees. However, any statement of prayer for those victimized or killed in conflict should stop at a general statement.

  24. Regarding Percussion: Having been the occasional player of various percussion instruments (hey, horn players who are forced to play endless off-beats in grade-school bands learn rhythm the hard way) in worship in a prior life, I would suggest that, in Euro-American Catholic culture, percussion be used with discretion (I might not prescriptively say – “safe, legal, and rare” but I wouldn’t mind it descriptively), it’s fundamentally an acoustical matter: percussion has more of a place in liturgy in acoustically dead spaces (of which there are still too many). Frankly, a lot of the percussion I’ve encountered reminds me of the electronic organ playing I encountered in the 1960s and 1970s: dull and self-centered.

    Regarding the Propers: If there’s one way to kill a gradual familiarization of propers, it’s overarguing and overselling them. It’s a big disservice to the propers. Much more modest approaches are more likely to produce durable fruit. My own view is that congregations should be familiarized with all the options permitted, with regularity over the long term, so that congregations can make informed discernment about the merits and demerits of the various options. Something to annoy the heck out of all the partisans on this issue: seems to me to be the key to a solution.

  25. Regarding Improvisation: my concern is fiduciary in nature. Priests come and go; congregations are left to clean up after them. When priests exercise the privilege of choice without authority from above, it better damn well at least rest on authority from below – not just the liturgical commission or the parish council, but based on broad and deep consensus of the flock (not what the priest thinks what that is, but what it actually is). What can I say: I am a process progressive. Progressive results achieved through non-progressive means are vulnerable. Means and ends and all that.

    Regarding the Sign of Peace: we’ve already had a very thoughtful hashing out of that here recently. Shibboleth territory is not worthy.

  26. As I commented in two other fora where Alan Hommerding originally posted the link that Paul Ford has now posted here:

    I frequently find people complaining that the priest has made up his own Eucharistic Prayer when in point of fact he was using one of the options for Various Needs and Occasions or Reconciliation that they just don’t happen to be familiar with. 🙁

  27. Mr Tucker’s preferences are cultural fads. No more. No less. His rhetorical flourishes are amusing.

    However, he gives the game away when he uses the word ‘celebrant’ to refer exclusively to the one presiding.

    I agree with Fr. Ron.

  28. I am struggling to find any insight in this piece that has not been voiced a thousand times before – on NLM, Fr Z, Rorate, Voris, etc. Its framing is primarily negative: let me tell you the things that are wrong with today’s worship. The polemical and sardonic tone of the opening paragraph (“the hippy-dippy rupturism of the past”) does it no credit. And its conclusions about the new translation are simply off the mark. I have seen more, not less presider improvisation since Advent 2011, primarily because the new prayers are so clumsy.

    There might something of a point in the final paragraph: strip away things that have been added to the Mass (e.g. “newsy” universal prayers) and you will reveal the underlying simplicity and beauty. It is a pity that we had to read through a few pages of tendentious polemic to get to it.

  29. At a few of the papal outdoor Masses recently, there appeared to be a congregational hymn (I think it a commission one in Italian for the year of faith) but when the Holy Father reaches the steps of the altar, it ends and the Sistine Choir chants the official introit as the pope incenses the altar and goes to his chair. Does the discussion really have to center on either/or when in fact it can be both/and. And when it is the both/and scenario, what’s the big deal if the choir or schola alone sings the Introit either in the vernacular or Latin using more difficult settings of chant or Polyphony? In fact, what’s the big deal with the Introit alone is used as the processional and it is sung by the choir or schola when the congregation is encouraged to sing the other sung parts of the Mass itself, including their responses, the Kyrie, Gloria, etc.?
    The other point some have brought up about the official chant propers is that often they don’t tie into the “theme” of the readings and are disconnected from these as they go in some kind of order and thus hymns should be chosen that tie into the readings of the day. During Ordinary Time normally, the Epistle reading is read in sequence and has little to do with the Old Testament reading or the Gospel reading, both of which usually are paired according to a similar theme. Does that mean then the Epistle reading should be rejected based upon this false premise concerning the official chant propers?

    1. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #39:
      The GIRM gives us the four purposes of the Entrance Chant:
      1. Open the celebration
      2. Foster the unity of those who have been gathered
      3. Introduce their thoughts to the mystery of the liturgical time or festivity
      4. Accompany the procession of the Priest and ministers

      When choosing a piece of music for the entrance chant, we must find something that best accomplishes these criteria. The church then offers four possibilities (Graduale Romanum, Graduale Simplex, another psalm/antiphon, or liturgical chant). The church has no preference between the four possibilities. The church’s preference is that the piece fulfills its purpose. One might guess that the church gave four options because she realizes that not all communities are the same. There are different ways to skin the cat.

      So, the big deal, with, for instance, the congregation not singing the entrance chant, is that, for a particular community, having the first piece of music sung only by a small number could immediately foster disunity. In many instances another piece of music better introduces the mystery of the liturgical time or festivity than the prescribed entrance antiphon. The correct choice of music will inevitably be different for different communities.

      The point is, a discussion of the criteria is needed first before throwing out specific music ideas.

      1. @Jeff Rice – comment #42:
        Jeff, I’m fully aware of the practice and singing a congregational hymn has always been the practice in every parish I’ve been in for 33 years now. Every Director of Music in my parishes has picked music according to the themes of the Gospel normally. But we’re speaking of a specific reform as suggested by Jeffrey Tucker as it concerns the propers. What my current parish does right now is that the cantor chants the Entrance Chant in the Roman Missal (the one or two lines) as the procession begins and then we go directly into the congregational hymn. I like it very much but realize that it isn’t the ideal. We have chanted the “Pre-Vatican II” way of chanting the Introit occasionally at one of our Ordinary Form Masses after the Congregational Hymn, meaning I wait at the foot of the altar for it to complete and when the schola chants the Latin Introit, I approach the altar, kiss it and incense it and go to the chair. I think this works extremely well. But we are no where near doing the official Entrance Chant in English as Jeffrey Tucker would propose or suggest.

      2. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #44:
        I think you’re missing the point… the “ideal” is to select a piece of music that fulfills the purpose of the entrance chant as outlined in the GIRM for your particular community. It might not be the same every week. You may have already figured out the ideal for your community. The point is that the evaluation shouldn’t be whether or not your community is singing the official antiphon every week, but whether the piece you did select accomplishes the four criteria listed in the GIRM.

      3. @Jeff Rice – comment #45:
        And I’m saying that every week our congregation fully participates in singing the congregational hymn that is selected according the the criteria you and I understand. What we haven’t done is developed a standard over the course of years for the congregation to get use to singing the official Introit and only recently have some options become available in this regard on the liturgical market. But a tradition has to be established and it won’t happen over night but over the course of months and maybe years. If we had done this with the reform of the Mass to begin with, (which means eliminating some of the options the GIRM allows) we more than likely would have a national standard by now of congregations actually chanting the official Introit. But if we start now, maybe in 20 years it will be commonly chanted by all, but I’m not clairvoyant.

      4. @Jeff Rice – comment #42:

        ” The church then offers four possibilities (Graduale Romanum, Graduale Simplex, another psalm/antiphon, or liturgical chant). The church has no preference between the four possibilities.”

        While I don’t claim to be an authority on this point, I’ve seen the claim that the four possibilities are actually hierarchical – they are presented in the order of preference. If that is true, then the implication would seem to be, if you’re able to pull off the Gradual setting worthily, then you should; if you can’t, then your next option is the Simplex, and so on through the list. I’m not a stickler for that particular point. Even so, it seems fair to ask: is the Roman Gradual and the Simple Gradual *ever* seriously considered? Ever?

  30. Mr. Tucker’s title and approach to his article strikes me as a “review” of a performance by a local critic. The mass is turned into a performance and the “critic” gives his review and lists what was wrong and how it was ruined according to his criteria.
    To be fair this approach has been used as much by the “progressives” and the RotR.

    I would suggest if someone wants to encourage congregational singing, give people music they can sing, let it become familiar to them and PLEASE turn off all personal microphones (cantor,presider,etc) during congregational singing.

  31. Microphones: now there’s a piece that could have gotten more mention.

    “To underscore this—the Mass sung propers are not NECESSARILY supposed to reinforce the Lectionary texts.”

    It might be that in light of this, the propers are not all that important. What if they were just a post-conciliar bone thrown to the few traditionalist musicians who were keeping that tradition alive?

    A solid repertoire of Scripture-based texts, a variety of hymn and song forms, attention to cultivating music that people will know, love, and sing outside of worship–this is more of a need today than unhitched psalms numerically ordered to fit them in.

    For all the promotion of the “first” choice, I don’t hear as much love among propers-advocates for the other first choice: the sung dialogue between the choir and people. There’s some good work here and there, including the SEP, for example. And Dr Ford’s BFW. However, the emphasis on repertoire over familiarity and singability, and the tolerance for more choir-only music reinforces the perception of a privileged quasi-priesthood in what should be a ministry of service.

    1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #41:

      “To underscore this—the Mass sung propers are not NECESSARILY supposed to reinforce the Lectionary texts.”

      One of the benefits that I have derived from PrayTell is that someone on the discussion of the Propers informed me that they were present and available on the internet in Latin and Gregorian chant. So for about a year when I did my daily treadmill routine I listened to the coming Propers for the Sunday with the added advantage of a Latin English version of the entire psalm, i.e. I prayed the whole psalm or a substantial part while the antiphon continued to repeat.

      While some of the Propers and their Psalms are very appropriate to the Liturgy of the Sunday outside of Ordinary Time, during OT the psalms appear to serve mainly the function that they do in the monastic office, namely they are models of prayer and they are a compendium of the faith, an easy prayerful introduction to the practice of both of prayer and the faith, very important in the days before books and mass literacy.

      We live in an entirely different world. We have books, and we have to carry so much in our heads that we are unlikely to memorize the psalms.

      In interviewing people in the parish who were involved in Bible Study, I asked them about their knowledge and appreciation of the psalms. It was largely confined to the Responsorial Psalm which most people liked and valued. Only a few people got beyond this, but those who did seemed to like and value psalms.

      So the real liturgical question of the Propers is what is the role of the Psalms in the Mass, and how we can best use them in ways that are appropriate to our age . I doubt that is the slavish repetition of an antiphon because it was once there in the historical past or is still there in some but not many books.

  32. Gordon Truitt has allowed me to post here his insights on another list-serve:

    Consider the source, but consider also some of the source’s sources. His sweeping descriptions of the past, while accurate in some respects, are incomplete. Much of what is missing in his summary of the situation is context: the context in which the music was created (most of it is not 2000 years old), the context in which the Mass was structured (the basilica shape of churches, for example), the context in which all of the horrible things he condemns were introduced (the attempt to discover what “full, conscious, active participation” required, for example).

    “Progressives” like me are often accused on tunnel vision–focusing on what we want to use from the tradition to justify innovation–but I think that this article proves that both sides (all sides?) could probably be painted with the same brush.

    Gordon

  33. But, your assumption is that the propers are a core element in the order of mass and thus, you propose/critique that the church could move forward with a both/and. Others take the GIRM from Consilium/SC and its four part guidance.

    Imagine that they also insert other SC articles such as enculturation, music (commons have the highest priority; then processional music, etc.) and allow for liturgical development over the last 50 years. For this group, wonder if they see the *propers* as an essential element.

    Suggest that we connect this discussion to the earlier post from Fr. Michael on SC’s Article 50 especially Fr. Michael’s comments at #18, 19, 20 that quote from the SC Schema.

    “The present Order of Mass, which has developed over the course of the centuries, is to be retained. However it would seem that some things here and there would be reviewed and even emended, through the work of studies that, especially in our age, have been undertaken both concerning the origin and the evolution of the individual rites of the Mass, so that the nature and significance of each of its parts might be places in clearer light, and that the active participation of the faithful might be restored more easily and more immediately.

    Appears that some want to *restore* what may or may not have been essential parts of the order of the Mass and others see the *propers* as less than essential and was an area for development; emendation, etc. – see Gordon Truitt’s observation above which is very much on point.

    It would be helpful if we had the actual Consilium notes and decisions around the propers….some suggest that this was an area that was left for future development and circumstances have passed it by? issues with wanting to simplify and connections to the reality that the propers are rarely connected to the scripture – add even more verses/prayers and is/was that necessary? It would be helpful to know the historical studies about how the Roman Rite began, used, and developed *propers* and if that history is still of value?
    Without this background, we are back to assumptions based upon what I like, what I imagine, personal preferences, etc. (Mr. Truitt’s point about JT’s article).

  34. Todd Flowerday : @J. Michael Thompson – comment #24: My issue with the propers is not that they don’t match, but that they don’t even attempt to harmonize, especially in ordinary time. It’s an oversimplification to expect every Bible passage at Mass to be variations on a single theme. But it’s not to much to expect they be pulling in the same direction on any given Sunday. Including the long stretches of ordinary time.

    The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod released a Supplemental Liturgy a few years ago. It included a revision of the 3 year lectionary which attempted to address the issue you raise above. It is a very good revision, and while the readings are not always dead on the exact same message, they do far more strongly pull in the same direction than the disjointed 3 year cycle of the RCL or the Roman Lectionary… at least on Sundays. (WELS has no weekday eucharistic lectionary, unsurpisingly.)

    1. @Father Robert Lyons – comment #49:

      Isn’t this “thematic” unity, at least as we’ve been taught to think about it, a bit overrated, though?

      Here is something that I wonder about: I daresay that none of us (well, almost none of us :-)) would dare to substitute a different set of readings for the readings prescribed by the Lectionary, in order to better fit some predetermined theme. That is because, as nearly all of us think of it, the theme *is determined by* the readings for the day; the readings give us the major ideas around which (quite often) we choose our music for the celebration, and (usually) it is the underlying basis, or at least the point of departure, for the homily.

      And there are many good reasons not to substitute readings: it’s legally impermissible; it’s not customary; we recognize the wisdom of the compilers of the Lectionary; etc. But by and large, it’s just a “given”. That we use the appointed readings of the day, we don’t alter them, and we shape many decisions regarding the liturgy to fit them, is just something we’re taught to do; it’s a habit we acquire, and we rarely examine the habit.

      But here is the part that interests me: we don’t think of the Entrance or the Offertory or the Communion the way we think of the readings. We don’t receive them as a “given” in the same way that we receive the readings as a “given”. Nor do we (typically) allow the themes of the chants, which, as has been noted, frequently follow a selection scheme quite unrelated to the Lectionary themes of the day, augment and enrich the “themes” that we perceive the mass to be about.

      I don’t know why we think of these things the way we do: that the reading texts are a “given” but the chant texts are not a “given”. As a homilist, I’d welcome the opportunity to preach on one of the chants of the day, at least from time to time – if, for example, one of the chants happened to align with something happening in our community that I believe…

      1. @Jim Pauwels – comment #57:
        Good thought on the comparison between Lectionary readings and the Psalms at Entrance and Communion.

        One reason why people might be more free to exchange out those passages is that as Jeff pointed out, they accompany the ritual moment. They are not the central ritual itself. Plus, we have a long history of subbing them out. And they were never promoted by the institutional Church.

        I work with an associate pastor from Ghana, and frequently he requests a particular song to underscore a homily point. Occasionally I can’t comply for technical reasons. But I do bend over backwards to accede to his request. Off the top of my head, I can’t recall a suggestion of his that wasn’t Scripture-based.

        The CMAA people think I have a big head for it, but I do believe that a music planner with some Scripture knowledge may well have a better bead on Entrance and Communion than what is offered us through the Propers. And if that person is collaborating with the clergy, and planning the overall musical repertoire carefully with parish musicians, I’m sure non-Propers will nearly always be better.

        That said, I do have an idea that I think would be a bridge to an intelligent MR4 approach to the Propers.

        I propose that seasonal texts, including for logical chunks of ordinary Sundays, be produced. The structure would be variable: mainly antiphon-plus-verses with the option of a strophic hymn. The bishops of one or more conferences commission proven, excellent hymn writers (and perhaps poets and others) to compose texts in collaboration with Scripture scholars. The texts would include not only psalms, but biblical canticles, and the more lyrical passages from the Gospels, prophets, and wisdom literature. These texts would be recommended for certain stretches of Sundays. Perhaps some of these texts could be adapted for existing Gregorian melodies, similar to what Dr Ford did with English texts in BFW.

        The texts and any music commissioned would then be placed in the public domain. And then we give it ten to twenty years and see what happens.

        We model a collaborative, inspired approach on a project like this–everything MR3 was not. And bring together people of disparate opinions into a common project we can all back: better texts with better music and discerned over a long period of time. Bishops, composers, musicians, Scripture scholars, and liturgists all on the same page. It would send the naysayers like Rev Zed into a frenzy.

  35. Regarding Propers,

    I agree that Mass is not “ruined” without them, as Deacon Fritz points out. In fact, as some other commentators on Chant Cafe noted, the only thing that “ruins” a Mass is a lack of sacramental validity. So “ruin” is hyperbolic and unhelpful. It shoots the propers argument in the foot, actually, and shuts off avenues for fruitful discussion. For example, I would never argue that Mass is ruined without Palestrina, but I would argue that Mass is more beautiful, or that I have an easier time entering into the prayer of the liturgy, or appreciating the Eucharist, when it is infused with beautiful music. Similarly, the propers, to me at least, add a layer of depth and the “mind” or tradition of the Church to the liturgy, which is quite valuable. At least, when groups are available to present the propers well as sung prayer.

    On propers:

    We should not assume too glibly that hymns are inherently better for reflecting the readings or “theme” of the day (to the extent that Mass has a “theme”). Easter, Pentecost, Christmas, Epiphany – there is a wealth of well-known, excellent hymnody that directly ties in with the feast in question. Ordinary Time, honestly not so much. Even attempts like the “Hmyn of the Day” in Worship IV, while well-intentioned, often come off as a textual stretch to fit, or even pedantic in nature (one can be too obvious in reflecting the reading, without really adding any theological insight). And even when successful, that is still just one hymn for the day. As someone who sits, year after year, with the major hymnals and attempts to pick appropriate hymns, there simply are not 3 or four hymns per day that are a good reflection of the readings. The characterization of hymnody as somehow more suitable to the lectionary cycle does not hold up throughout the liturgical year. So I would actually argue differently from Todd, keeping the great feast-day hymns as a special and more participatory marker of solemnity, and tending toward propers for…

  36. Ah, the character limit.

    Tending toward propers for Ordinary Time.

    And as to the Jeff Rice points above, it is important to remember that a choral piece can accomplish all of the purposes of the entrance song (or Offertory or Communion), without requiring the vocal participation of the congregation. Active listening can also “Foster the unity of those who have been gathered”, as anyone who has ever watched or listened to anything together with someone else can attest. I have participated in or conducted Requiem Masses (Faure, Durufle, Mozart, etc.) on All Souls day many times, and I am always struck by the focus and unity the choral introit imparts to the celebration. That particular introit is emotionally and spiritually-charged in a way that many are not – however, the potential is there for more artistic involvement with choral propers.

    Finally, it is also important to remember that propers could be featured at the choral Masses on a particular day, while hymnody forms the backbone of the other Masses. Unity does not mean uniformity, even within the same parish on the same day. Regardless of what some here often claim, this is not a liturgical ghetto mentality, nor is there any inherent problem with having Masses with a different musical character in the same community.

    1. @Jared Ostermann – comment #53:
      A choral piece might be able to accomplish the purposes in one community, but not in another. As a musician my inclination would be towards the Mozart, Durufle or chanted Requiem introit for All Souls. However, in none of the communities I’ve worked would that have been the correct choice.

      With regards to hymns or other liturgical songs, there are thousands upon thousands of possibilities, so it really isn’t difficult to find music that draws upon one or more of the texts of the day (not just the readings, but the Collect, Preface, etc.). And really, that only addresses the third criteria.

      Don’t forget the fourth, music to accompany the procession. Whereas the Gloria, Responsorial Psalm, Sanctus ARE the primary liturgical action at the given moment, the music during the entrance, offertory, and communion ACCOMPANY the liturgical action, and so the church instructs the music/text chosen should reflect that.

      I think it’s actually a very high bar that the church has set. You have to fulfill four criteria, and you have to actually know well the community you are serving. How many of us who chose music intentionally go through these criteria when selecting an entrance piece? I admit that I don’t always go through this rather rigorous exercise, though when I do, the music selection is the better for it.

      1. @Jeff Rice – comment #55:
        Jeff, there may well be thousands of possibilities, but the number of pieces known well by a particular community is much, much smaller. If we wanted to really plumb the existing repertoire of intentionally congregational music (much of which is really not easy to sing, and incorporates a unique melody for its particular text), we might well get closer to music that matches the liturgy. But we would be teaching a LOT of new music. This difficulty is one of the chief arguments against (or obstacles to) congregational propers.

        And I’m just curious, how would a hymn be different to accompany an action, versus standing alone ritually? Aside from memorable refrains working better in this situation, I don’t see much musical difference. A more steady beat, to emulate or assist the processing?

      2. @Jared Ostermann – comment #56:

        ” But we would be teaching a LOT of new music. This difficulty is one of the chief arguments against (or obstacles to) congregational propers.”

        It is a good argument, too, for simple chant tones that are within a congregation’s capability.

  37. Jeff Rice : @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #44:I think you’re missing the point… the “ideal” is to select a piece of music that fulfills the purpose of the entrance chant as outlined in the GIRM for your particular community. It might not be the same every week. You may have already figured out the ideal for your community. The point is that the evaluation shouldn’t be whether or not your community is singing the official antiphon every week, but whether the piece you did select accomplishes the four criteria listed in the GIRM.

    What I believe to be the most postive outcomes of the typically provocative Jeff Tucker screed is that there are at least five fori’s worth of examination and discussion of his specific concerns. That gladdens me. What I believe the worst outcome is that five fori’s worth of argumentation eventually disintegrates coherent perspectives by the willy-nilly imposition of localized anecdotal testimony simultaneously with presumptive global mandates and dictums. That’s irksome.
    I think Mr. Rice shines a light on the both sides of the polemical coin of “idealism” which is bolstered by many individual observations by others regarding church architecture, the nature and purpose of “service music” that proceeds through the Mass, and the affect of the Mass upon its conclusion. I would thank both Todd and Richard Rice for reminding us of the latter.
    However, Jeff Rice concludes his rejoinder to FRAJM by questioning if his ideal in Macon maintains weekly consistency of fulfilling the ideal criteria listed in the GIRM.
    This is why articles such as Tucker’s irritate me. To even think we all can accommodate four criteria every Mass by the choice of an Introit or Entrance Hymn seems irrational to me. Yes, we must be able to recite by memory these criteria, but not use them as SAT exams (standardized testing) for every decision we must make.
    As Todd often recommends, let’s take a chill pill, relax the maxims, and if we have an opportunity to influence five venues of discussion, do it in a manner that isn’t confusing to the point of Babel, but looks for consensus.

  38. In the matter of propers, I think the argument (most forcefully expressed by Todd Flowerday) that they are often ill-matched to the themes set by the readings, really raises the question of whether the Mass is intended to be ‘themed’ at all. I would argue that this lack of simplistic thematic unity is a strength of the way the propers and readings interact as facets of the days mass rather than a negative as he would suggest. Insofar as the Mass for any given day conforms to a theme it seems to me this is a seasonal rather than didactic as Mr Flowerday’s argument would seem to imply. In other words at Advent one might expect themes of waiting, expectation, longing etc – (perhaps these are moods rather than themes) and these are supplied differently in the propers than in the readings. The fact that the propers and readings don’t conform to a teaching thematic is not unimportant. So what could be the strength of this? In the main I think that aspects of any experience made up of disparate elements gains its power from the resonances set up by the juxtaposition of these elements. It’s about counterpoint rather than ornamented arrangements of single themes. A gestalt if you like. Seen in this way the propers have an entirely different function from the readings – being mostly psalms they seem to be reflections on the wonders of God and his world – I’ve just been relearning the lovely Alleluia: Magnus est Dominus nowadays assigned to 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time years A & C. In no way does this directly relate to the two readings which immediately precede it but it does seem to be a wonderful positive counterpoint to the quite personally difficult concepts argued in: B. 2 Cor 12: 7-10; or
    C. Gal 6: 14-18. Even seen as a Gospel acclamation the same factors apply. I would argue that choosing hymns to mirror the readings is actually to diminish the total affect of the Mass as a structure. (Of course I don;t mean as an action) Hymns would be better chosen to reflect the theme/mood of the propers thus…

    1. @Timothy O’Brien – comment #61:

      ” In the main I think that aspects of any experience made up of disparate elements gains its power from the resonances set up by the juxtaposition of these elements. It’s about counterpoint rather than ornamented arrangements of single themes. A gestalt if you like. ”

      Yes, I agree. (You said this much better than I did in a previous comment). I would add that the Lectionary itself encompasses a counterpoint during Ordinary Time, as the 2nd reading cycle follows its own logic independently of the axis of intentional relationships by which the first reading and responsorial psalm are selected to harmonize with the Gospel of the day. That juxtaposition can, at least occasionally, trigger some interesting lines of thought for the homilist.

  39. … preserving the multifaceted construction of the day’s Mass rather than limiting it to a tendentious theme. (One could write another screed on whether the readings really allow the possibility of a single theme in any case). In sum, the unified nature of the Mass is not the simplified thematic unity of drama but a sort of cosmic unity where the whole is definitely greater than the sum of the parts and where contemplation and participation in all these parts provokes one beyond their immediate individual import. Therefore to continually excise one aspect of seasonality (propers) and not reflect it any other way may also diminish the full reception of the more privileged seasonality (scripture).

  40. An article of mine on the Propers has just been published in the English Panel of Monastic Musicians Newsletter. Amongst other things, it reminds us
    (a) that the propers are no longer proper in the sense that they once were (they are now one option among several),
    (b) that the Missal antiphons are not intended for singing but for recitation where there is no other singing at these points, and
    (c) that the antiphons were only retained in the 1970 Missal in order to appease the Gregorian chant people.

    With regard to (b), it is worth noting that in universal GIRM (paras 48 and 87) the Missal antiphons are not even specified as one of the options for singing. (Their inclusion as an option is peculiar to the USA version of GIRM — other countries do not have this, and it has been suggested that the USA provision is a mistake on the part of USCCB.)

    ——

    The article just mentioned also dares to embark on a discussion which we have not yet had, concerning the processional nature of the Entrance and Communion. In former times, with a non-participatory liturgy, this was not an issue. Today, where the processions have taken on different characteristics in the post-conciliar liturgy, it is an area that needs examining. The question is this: does the metrical fluidity and restrained ethos of Gregorian chant actually lend itself to supporting processional movement, or does it rather reduce the chant to incidental background music that happens to be sung at the same time as a procession is taking place?

    The answer to that question may explain one possible response to Todd’s observation about adapting vernacular texts to existing Gregorian chant melodies (which is what Professor Dobszay did in the Graduale Parvum and what Paul Ford did in a different way in BFW). That response would be “Why would you even want to adapt vernacular texts to the Gregorian melodies when those melodies themselves may not be the most suitable way of accompanying the processions?”

    1. @Paul Inwood – comment #65:
      Regarding Paul’s 3 points:

      a)”Propers are no longer proper.” Actually, yes they are still proper, just not required. The fact that other things are allowed does not make the propers inherently less proper – however, it does dilute their cultural status greatly (we no longer think of “Quasimodo Sunday” for example). That may be all you’re saying here. However, it is worth noting that at Low Mass the propers were quietly recited by the priest while (very often) the congregation would sing a hymn. The idea of other music covering up propers is not unique to the postconciliar liturgy. Nor does this idea (now or previously) negate the fact that certain texts (propers) are assigned to certain days in the church’s official liturgical books.

      b) A moot point, as the antiphons can be sung anyway as an “alius cantus”.

      c) Thank goodness for the “chant people.” Was this some small cadre of extremists at the council? Would it have worked to suddenly eliminate the whole idea of proper antiphons in 1970? I think not, on both counts.

      I know many at PTB hate to hear it, but even if something was controversial in its process, what matters at the end of the day is what actually was approved by the council or Vatican office in question. At the Council of Trent, some restrictive musical directives (centering on textual intelligibility) were proposed, but rejected. No, the Palestrina Mass did not save polyphony. But it is true that there was a significant cadre opposed to complex polyphony at the council. In the end, though, Trent has no requirement for textual intelligibility (see Craig Monson’s 2002 article “The Council of Trent Revisited” in JAMS for a discussion of the debates and drafting process). I am thankful for that, and similarly thankful that the idea of proper antiphons was not rejected at or after Vatican II.

      In short, Paul, none of the points you make are good arguments against using the proper chants.

      1. @Jared Ostermann – comment #73:
        Council of Trent liturgical decisions compared to Vatican II – would suggest that you are comparing apples to oranges for these reasons:
        – Trent made very few, if any, liturgical decisions. John O’Malley’s research documents that the Trentan bishops had higher priorities during its three sessions over many years and the final session worked furiously to finalize the theological decisions that had been debated and ran out of time in terms of added agenda items; such as liturgy. Thus, Trent laid out directives but successive popes actually made and implemented the liturgy decisions. (e.g. polyphony – O’Malley has an actual section on this decision that sheds a more comprehensive light than your brief comment. Keep in mind, also, that Trent’s purpose was to define Catholic sacraments and practices as separate and rightly distinct from Reformation tendencies)
        – Vatican II – began and made its first decision/vote/document on liturgy and thus directed the creation of Consilium. SC’s format, themes, expressions were then picked up and applied in other VII documents. (VII had a primary goal of *ecumenism* and thus looked at liturgy, sacraments, definitions through this lense – finding the commonalities rather than defining catholic identity or differences)

        This is a casual conclusion but liturgy at Trent was an *afterthought* while liturgy at Vatican II was the heart and core (*summit*). So, to equate VII propers discussion with Trent’s polyphony is like comparing apples to oranges.

      2. @Jared Ostermann – comment #73:

        (a) No, they are not proper. In the correct usage of the term, “proper” means “obligatorily assigned to be sung or said on this day”. There is no longer the same obligation since there are several options. If these texts are not required, as you admit, they are therefore no longer proper.

        (b) Anyone can sing whatever they like within the parameters laid down (although one hopes that pastoral considerations will guide their choice, rather than incorrect notions of what “has” to be sung). My point was simply that GIRM says that the antiphons are only there to be recited if there is no singing. It does not say (except in the USA) that these antiphons should ever be sung.

        (c) The “chant people” were not a cadre of extremists at the Council. It was people such as Mgr Higinio Anglès and other members of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, the community of Solesmes, etc, etc. It was felt important not to alienate them in the course of the reforms.

        I have not been arguing against the use of the proper chants. I have simply been pointing out that there is no longer any such thing as the proper chants in the former sense, and it is therefore not necessary for me to argue for their use, whether facultative or mandatory.

      3. @Paul Inwood – comment #77:
        Our comments passed one another in cyberspace, and I didn’t see your response until after posting.

        I am happy to hear that you are not arguing against the use of proper chants. Pardon me for assuming otherwise. You are only arguing that we don’t NEED to use them? That is already a given in the GIRM. However, you also seem to be arguing that there is no value in using them. I disagree strongly with that idea.

        Your definition of “proper” is only one possible definition. And by that definition, you are correct. It is however possible to define “proper” as “assigned by the church to a particular time, rather than recurring week after week.” Some proper things are optional after the council. That does not change the fact that the repertoire of proper chants still exists, and use of that repertoire continues to be encouraged in the church’s official liturgical legislation.

        “there is no longer any such thing as the proper chants in the former sense,”

        Well, actually they do still exist – it is only the legislation regarding their use that has changed.
        More accurate:

        There is no longer a requirement for the recitation or singing of the still existing, proper (that is, still assigned to particular liturgies), and recommended chant repertoire.

        As for processing, were the processional chants originally composed at a time when there were no processions? And my points on the actual effect of meter on those processing still apply. Do people really have an easier time walking around to a metered hymn? Do they reflect the rhythm in their marching or walking? Sometimes, and in some cultures. But this is not a compelling general argument against the suitability of chant.

    2. @Paul Inwood – comment #65:
      I’m also interested by the processional music point. I think this is an interesting question, but I don’t see how the fact of processing can really be used as an argument against non-metrical chant. Presumably, at least since the Roman Schola Cantorum (McKinnon) and probably even for centuries previously (Jeffery) un-metered chant accompanied liturgical processions. Do people walk differently now? If this is a problem with chant, it has always been a problem, since the invention of the repertoire.

      Or from another angle, when you do use metered music (e.g. a hymn), do those processing actually march in some kind of connection with the meter of the music? I have never experienced this at regular liturgies – I am imagining the “step-together-step-together” some brides practice for their walk in. Does your priest walk differently to reflect a 3/4 meter, as opposed to a 4/4? I just don’t see the connection, but maybe Paul is referring to something else. Maybe he is referring to a culture where the processions are actually dances, in which case the criticism makes sense. And maybe chant is not the best option for inculturated music in those settings.

      1. @Jared Ostermann – comment #74:

        I think the point about processional music concerns who is processing, and how they and the procession are perceived. To give just one simple example, for hundreds of years the Communion antiphons were sung while no one was processing, because the people generally only received Communion rarely. Today the case is very different.

        If you want to sample good mediaeval processional chant, look at something like the Laudes Regiae from the Worcester Antiphoner, or chants such as Puer natus in Bethlehem, which have a very different feel from the typical Introit or Communion antiphon.

  41. that the antiphons were only retained in the 1970 Missal in order to appease the Gregorian chant people.

    You mean the Council Fathers of the second Vatican Council who decreed that “117. The typical edition of the books of Gregorian chant is to be completed; and a more critical edition is to be prepared of those books already published since the restoration by St. Pius X.”

    1. @Samuel J. Howard – comment #66:
      Yes – those are the council fathers we’re talking about.
      Anyone can play this game, Samuel – playing texts and positions off against each other. The Council said a lot of things, and they’re sometimes in tension with each other, so the “gotcha” thing works well for you.
      awr

  42. The American decision to expressly permit musical settings of the Missal antiphons struck me as an eminently prudent cutting of an unnecessary knot.

  43. The Council said a lot of things, and they’re sometimes in tension with each other, so the “gotcha” thing works well for you.

    Come on. Paul Inwood has suggested that “the antiphons were only retained” to “appease the Gregorian chant people.” It’s a distortion. I’m pointing out the very tension you’re talking about.

    But I’m glad that you’re above personal criticism and point scoring.

    1. @Samuel J. Howard – comment #69:

      Sam,

      It’s not a distortion at all. We are told this by the late Fr Pierre Jounel, who was on a number of Consilium working groups including groups dealing with aspects of the Missal. Jounel was quite clear that the Missal antiphons were only retained so that those who wished to continue using the prolix chants in the Latin Graduale could continue to do so — and the phrase “appease the Gregorianists” is his, not mine.

      The working group members did not envisage that the Missal antiphons would ever be sung in the vernacular. Jounel himself said, “They are there to remind us that we ought to be singing something at these points — but not that!” I note once again that GIRM does not envisage the antiphons being used except for recitation when there is no other singing. The US GIRM addition is not in the “universal” text that the rest of us are using. It may be an aberration, or it may be a concession that the US bishops requested.

      The preparation of better editions of the Gregorian chant books, requested by the Council Fathers, says nothing about the subsequent use of such editions. Some have suggested that the inclusion of that request was itself a sideswipe at the “Gregorianists”, since it would render their work obsolete — no doubt we will get to that when Michael Joncas reaches para 117. In point of fact, the revised Graduale Romanum (1974) can scarcely be said to be a better, critical edition. Much of its content is unchanged from earlier editions. The primary focus was the provision of additional material to cope with the three-year Lectionary cycle, and even there it failed dismally. If anyone hoped Cardine would unseat Mocquereau’s work, they must have been disapppointed in the outcome.

      I still think it would be more fruitful to examine areas such as the processional nature of Entrance and Communion, and suitable musical vehicles for those, rather than focusing on the status of Gregorian chants. (See the last section of my post #65 above)

  44. Though, even without the express authority given by the US bishops and ratified by Rome, one could use sung settings of the Missal antiphons under the “alius cantus” rubric.

  45. Paul Inwood’s point about Jounel would upset my previous argument.
    But with due respect to Inwood’s scholarship, one person’s (Jounel’s) assertion that something happened a certain way is not sufficient evidence. Unless there’s a substantial second source it seems fair to remain sceptical, especially as the source himself seems to be evidently opposed to the propers. And is it possible to imagine a world in 1970 where a missal could have been presented completely stripped of propers and have been approved by anyone other than a small coterie?
    Secondly I was interested in the example of the Alleluia – or Gospel acclamation – because this is the one proper that is heard by almost everyone in every kind of liturgy whether gregorian, praise band or just your average suburban compromise. Does anyone propose it’s abolition? Did Jounel? And if it is OK then at least some consideration must be given to the others.
    Of course so much about what liturgy means to liturgists seems to be an assertion of what they believe the liturgy should be even when that is at odds with its inevitable experience in practice. Take for example the assertion that the Communion has a processional nature. That’s true because one has to form a line in order to take part. But what sort of procession is this? Is it one in which everyone can realistically sing a hymn together? I have been to many churches mostly in North America where the Communion procession is supposed to be singing together but noone does because they don’t take their hymn book with them. If they did what would they do with it when receiving? On the tongue holding their book perhaps? – hardly ideal. When they return to their pew the musician(s) inevitably start a solo piece which the congregation can’t join. Wouldn’t it be better the other way round even if that’s not better in asserted theory.

    1. @Timothy O’Brien – comment #72:

      Taking your points one by one:

      Jounel’s assertion that this is what the working group thought is certainly sufficient evidence. The man was a member of it, for heaven’s sake. He was an inside witness, testifying as to why decisions were made the way they were. Just because you don’t like what he had to say doesn’t mean that his evidence is insufficient.

      Secondly, the Alleluia or Gospel Acclamation is not what is being talked about today when we refer to “the propers”. We are talking about the Entrance and Communion antiphons (and some people would add the Offertory antiphons which are no longer in the Missal). The Alleluia, like the Responsorial Psalm, is a chant between the readings. No one has proposed its abolition (though it is noteworthy that earlier versions of GIRM stated that if not sung it could be omitted). Additionally it is not proper in the same sense as the antiphons. For long stretches of the year, for example, the scripture verse is not manadatory, in the sense that there is a large selection of verses from which to choose.

      Thirdly, you are obviously completely unaware that for over 40 years liturgists have been saying precisely that hymns are not appropriate for the Communion procession. Why do you think composers, for the same length of time, have been writing Communion Songs and Communion Psalms with refrains? So that the assembly can sing those refrains from memory while a cantor or choir sings the verses, thus obviating the need for books in the procession. The fact that it often appears more like a queue than a procession is because of the way people line up instead of waiting for their row’s turn and then moving out of their pews and walking to the front (or wherever the distribution point is). In the Masses that you have been to where no one sings during the distribution of Communion, the reason for the silence is very clear: no one has thought to give them the correct kind of repertoire. And if at the end of Communion the musicians start a solo piece or choir meditation, they have clearly not read GIRM 88 which suggests a hymn or canticle sung the entire congregation.

    2. @Timothy O’Brien – comment #72:
      “Of course so much about what liturgy means to liturgists seems to be an assertion of what they believe the liturgy should be even when that is at odds with its inevitable experience in practice. Take for example the assertion that the Communion has a processional nature. That’s true because one has to form a line in order to take part. But what sort of procession is this? Is it one in which everyone can realistically sing a hymn together? I have been to many churches mostly in North America where the Communion procession is supposed to be singing together but noone does because they don’t take their hymn book with them. If they did what would they do with it when receiving? On the tongue holding their book perhaps? – hardly ideal. When they return to their pew the musician(s) inevitably start a solo piece which the congregation can’t join. Wouldn’t it be better the other way round even if that’s not better in asserted theory.”

      Finally someone who gets it! Cue Sidney Poitier and the Sisters:

      “All together now: A-amen, a-amen, a-amen,a-men, a-men!”

      (Or this could just be the “Great Amen” at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer) 🙂

  46. Paul Inwood:

    “The preparation of better editions of the Gregorian chant books, requested by the Council Fathers, says nothing about the subsequent use of such editions.”

    You seem intent on arguing throughout this thread that the continued use of the proper chants goes against the spirit of the council. The antiphons are just a bone thrown to some die-hard chant fans on the working committee. Chant is unsuitable for processions.

    So, the “pride of place” comment in SC, the directive for continued efforts to produce better chant books, the reiteration of “pride of place” in Musicam Sacram, the inclusion of the Graduale antiphon as the first option for the processions in the GIRM (or even as an option at all, if you don’t buy the hierarchical argument)…

    All of these things have no individual or cumulative meaning?

    Your arguments are extraordinarily unconvincing. I really hope that I am misreading your thesis here…
    I can completely understand a resistance to the extreme tone taken by Jeffrey Tucker (mass is “ruined” without the propers). But to then argue that the propers are a useless vestige, still around just to appease some camp at the council, is equally unhelpful.

  47. @ Paul Inwood – comment #75
    Thank you for responding. In your initial comment you appeared to argue that the propers were never intended to be part of the new Mass implying we should not be bothered about them. Subsequently you enlisted Jounel’s comments as support for this thesis.
    1. Jounel’s assertion is certainly evidence, I didn’t deny it. Is it sufficient? No, given that the propers continue to exist in the outcomes of all these groups, there is no other evidence against them and it’s clear from your quote that he had animus towards them. I don’t like or dislike what he said: he said it, that’s a fact. But should we ignore all other evidence on account of one anecdote no matter the status of its speaker?
    2. Whether you like it or not the Alleluia/Gospel acclamation is particular to its day and therefore a proper – the fact that people don’t talk about it as such now is part of the point I was making. They have so accepted it, that it is not even seen to be part of the group of propers which they want to dismiss. Just because it functions differently from the others renders it no less a proper. The readings themselves are proper. The nature of the introit procession is different from the communion, is different from offertory. In a limited sense the space from the second reading to the gospel is also processional.
    3. I used the word hymn in the generic sense of ‘a song sung in church’ as many would. I am suggesting that the way you want the communion procession to be, is rarely observed in practice. Often songs that are formally hymns are put in this place and not sung. Secondly I don’t see how the assembly singing a refrain to a solo or choral verse really privileges the assembly. I am aware from the pews for 40 years and more of what liturgists have asserted should be the case (thanks for the condescension by the way). What I am saying is: look at what actually has evolved. I am glad you agree that the congregational singing should come later.

    1. @Timothy O’Brien – comment #81:

      Tim, as was stated before, the generic translation for the processional propers is now rendered as a “chant.” Other than that, a rose is a rose….
      Despite the foresight (or prescient ambiguity) of the authors of the IGRM/GIRM, I’m not convinced that they then or still have a fundamental understanding of the process, philosophical rationale, and praxis reality of the Communio(n) chant.
      I don’t believe that others’ nuanced explanations of how the processioning faithful joining in a universal song that further “reinforces” the concept of communion (more like uniformity) or other dictums regarding postures being in conformity trumps the obvious sacramental occasion of receiving the True, Living Body and Blood of the Lord. It may be the offspring of benevolent sanctimonious deliberation, but expecting the PiP’s to sing uniformly as if in “1984” seems to me self-contradictory.
      The solutions are always local, not procescuted from afar.

    2. @Timothy O’Brien – comment #81:

      1. Jounel’s assertion is certainly evidence, I didn’t deny it. Is it sufficient? No, given that the propers continue to exist in the outcomes of all these groups, there is no other evidence against them and it’s clear from your quote that he had animus towards them. I don’t like or dislike what he said: he said it, that’s a fact. But should we ignore all other evidence on account of one anecdote no matter the status of its speaker?

      I am not aware that Jounel or anyone else in the working group had any animus towards the propers. I think that their position was rather one that did not see any useful purpose served by preserving them. (Some would say that the same is true of the antiphons in the Office.) However, they did preserve them in the interests of inclusivity. As far as the status of Jounel’s evidence is concerned, it carries just the same weight as the evidence of people like Bugnini and Marini. These are the people who know what happened because they were there. It’s therefore illogical to diss Jounel if you’re not going to disregard the evidence of everyone else too.

      2. Whether you like it or not the Alleluia/Gospel acclamation is particular to its day and therefore a proper [snip] The readings themselves are proper.

      Please read what I said again. Throughout Ordinary Time there is no particular Gospel acclamation assigned to a day. The fact that editors of lectionaries and people’s aids have sometimes made choices among the selection offered does not change this. Even the readings are not always proper any longer, when there is a choice offered. Two easy examples: those where both a long and a shorter form are offered, and those where there are two alternatives offered for Years B and C.

      Secondly I don’t see how the assembly singing a refrain to a solo or choral verse really privileges the assembly. [snip] What I am saying is: look at what actually has evolved. I am glad you agree that the congregational singing should come later.

      The idea is to involve the assembly in the singing at Communion time whose purpose, GIRM 86 tells us, is “to express the spiritual union of the communicants by means of the unity of their voices, to show gladness of heart, and to bring out more clearly the ‘communitarian’ character of the procession to receive the Eucharist.”

      In places where this has been done systematically over the past 40 years, a situation has been reached where not only do the assembly sing the refrains, they can often be found singing the verses from memory as well. “What has evolved” will depend on what you have seen: it is not the same everywhere.

      I do not agree that congregational singing should come “later” and neither does GIRM 86. What I do think, though, is that frequently we have tended to treat what happens during Communion as background “filler” music rather than something which is an integral part of the liturgical action. We really need to get out of that habit.

      It is in fact very difficult to reconcile that statement in GIRM 86, whose strong implication is that all the communicants unite their voices during the Communion procession, with the singing of a Gregorian antiphon which the people cannot join in with at all.

      In fact Communion is not the time for singing of any kind by the choir alone, and yet we still have not learned this after all these years. “What then should we do with all those lovely motets like Ave Verum, etc?” is the cry of many who do not like what they find in the documents. “Use them during the Presentation of the Gifts” is one good answer.

      1. @Paul Inwood – comment #83:

        The idea is to involve the assembly in the singing at Communion time whose purpose, GIRM 86 tells us, is “to express the spiritual union of the communicants by means of the unity of their voices, to show gladness of heart, and to bring out more clearly the ‘communitarian’ character of the procession to receive the Eucharist.”

        Paul, I agree that for some singing is a way to spiritually prepare for receiving Holy Communion. For others, silence is integral to preparation for the Eucharist. I could not sing and also prepare mentally for the Communion.

        Wouldn’t the act of the congregation approaching and recieving Communion itself symbolize a “communitarian character”? The decision to approach the altar and receive is inherently communitarian, as a person affirms to herself and the congregation that she is a member of the assembly, contrite and shriven, and believes in the Church’s understanding of the Eucharist. Singing during the Communion, then, might be beneficial for some assemblies but not all. Singing is certainly not required to make a worthy communion.

      2. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #85:

        Jordan,

        I do understand what you are saying, and I know that you are not alone in finding difficulty in singing during the Communion procession. I think the problem for you is going to remain those words “the unity of their voices”, which I think does imply rather strongly that people are expected to sing.

        I find it helpful to try to imagine what it was like to participate in a Eucharist, perhaps a house Mass, in the first couple of centuries of the Church’s life. I’m pretty sure that people did not prepare themselves to celebrate the presence of the Lord in their midst under the forms of bread and wine by silent contemplation. They sang with gladness as they went “with joy to meet their Lord”.

      3. @Paul Inwood – comment #83:
        Paul,

        Were I to adopt your manner of discourse, I would say something like “obviously you have never read the GIRM, article 87”. But that would be silly. Obviously you have read it, yet you choose not to mention it here. Because, as we all know, article 87 contains explicit permission for the choir to sing the communion chant alone. And yet you make the following statement:

        “In fact Communion is not the time for singing of any kind by the choir alone, and yet we still have not learned this after all these years.”

        I guess they got that wrong in the GIRM. Maybe your goal should be a campaign to get the GIRM revised, to reflect your own personal orthopraxis in liturgical music.

        Are we just playing games, here? Or is it extremely important to keep in mind the context of different articles, and the tensions between them? There is a tension between 86 and 87. That means that I will reject out of hand any extreme position that neglects to acknowledge this tension. It is, frankly, irresponsible to quote 86 without mentioning 87.

      4. @Jared Ostermann – comment #89:

        Jared,

        I knew someone would mention this, and it just happened to be you, so this reply is not getting at you personally.

        It’s important to realize that different people had a hand in the composition of documents such as GIRM. They did not all agree about basic principles.

        Thus you have paragraph 47, which tells us what the purpose of the Entrance Song is, why we are singing it, and paragraph 86, which does exactly the same thing for the Communion Song. Those paragraphs give the underlying theology, the primary thrust of the Church’s view of these parts of the liturgy.

        Then the draft is passed by other groups of folk who say to themselves, “How can we protect our vested interests?” They cannot remove the theological material, so their solution is to add material which will help further their own agenda.

        Thus you have paragraphs 48 and 87, which tell us how we are to implement the Entrance and Communion Songs. They stand, particularly in the case of para 87, in direct contradiction to what is said in each of their respective preceding paragraphs. The question then becomes one of deciding which is the more important, the theological underpinning or the practical details about what should be done. You can guess which I think is paramount. Practical details can and do change, but the theology remains constant.

        Yes, we live with this tension, which is inevitable in a time of transition, but what we often do not address is the question I pose above: what are the underlying values?

        This has been a notable feature of Roman documents for some time now. In the case of GIRM you can see the forward-looking group drafting the document and the rearward-looking group adding internal contradictions to it. More recently it is the other way round.

        One of the most notorious examples is Redemptionis Sacramentum (2004), which everyone knew was in the works some years before it actually appeared. Everyone was fairly sure that it would be drafted by a rearward-looking group, and so it was. (Some people confidently predicted that it would definitively ban dance in the liturgy. In the event, it didn’t even mention it.)

        What is less well known is that the draft document was circulated for comment among Episcopal Conferences around the world. The bishops were horrified by it. They wrote back to the Congregation saying, in many places, “You simply cannot say say this, but you ought to say that“. The mandarins were reluctant to admit error or make changes, and yet they had to take on board what the bishops said. They therefore kept every jot and tittle of their own text but printed what the bishops wanted as well. Thus we have both “this” and “that” alongside each other in the final version, resulting in possibly the greatest number of internal contradictions in any Vatican document in recent times.

        It means that anyone can cherry-pick whatever they want from the document, which renders it effectively valueless as a definitive statement. This kind of thing does make life extraordinarily difficult! Tension is the name of the game.

      5. @Paul Inwood – comment #92:
        Paul,

        It is also possible to cherry-pick in your analysis, or maybe sort rotten apples from fresh is a better analogy. You pick some “Ur-paragraphs” that carry the true values and then sort other paragraphs into agenda-driven and contradictory add-ons. But then the inevitable question of authority comes up. Is it your authority to sort paragraphs this way? Yes, we all have to grapple with the documents. But at the very least (especially as the director of an office of worship) it is critical to separate personal opinion (“the choir should never sing alone at communion”) from the actual text of the church’s official liturgical documents, which explicitly allow the choir to sing.

        In other words, if you would like to advance a personal reading of the documents which breaks rather than maintains a tension, go for it. But to further say that the documents themselves are flawed and cannot be resolved; to throw out some paragraphs – this is not acceptable. Thus my comment – not actually meant to be snarky – about campaigning to revise the GIRM in this regard. If the document is really directly self-contradictory, then rather than choosing which paragraphs to follow you should work to get the GIRM revised (perhaps at the national level) to make sense.

        And I think a good argument can be made that these paragraphs are not directly self-contradictory – if we’d really grapple with them rather than sorting good from bad. It has been argued that the GIRM covers the general, the norm, the standard, but not explicit directions for every possible eventuality. For example, the GIRM seems to proscribe a choral Sanctus (this time with no loophole). Yet the practice continues and was advocated by Ratzinger, etc.

      6. @Jared Ostermann – comment #94:
        Character limit…

        Also, there is a whole discussion to be had on the theology of choral singing – the fact that the choir are part of the faithful (and thus a representative group of the faithful sing when the choir sings alone). Also participation through listening and interior unity with the choir… the fact that unity can be fostered without the whole congregation physically joining in.

        The fact is, that well-read and formed people continue to discuss all these things. It’s not just blind agenda pushing now, and I don’t think it was at the council either. It is overly simplistic to say that paragraph 86 cannot be reconciled with 87; thus 87 should thrown out as defective. Maybe the Church has something to teach us, in maintaining a tension and a wealth of practical options.

      7. @Jared Ostermann – comment #96:

        Also, there is a whole discussion to be had on the theology of choral singing – the fact that the choir are part of the faithful (and thus a representative group of the faithful sing when the choir sings alone). Also participation through listening and interior unity with the choir… the fact that unity can be fostered without the whole congregation physically joining in.

        I agree that there is an ongoing discussion of this topic, and no one doubts that all can participate interiorly when the choir sings and be united in that listening. But the question is also one of when the choir sings alone, and this certainly relates to the proscription of choir-only settings of the Sanctus as well as Communion. It’s also worth asking ourselves why, for example, the reforms reintroduced the responsorial psalm form into the Mass after an absence of some 1500 years and ditched the Gradual and Tract. There was a serious reason for jettisoning those particular parts of our heritage, and its roots can be found in Church edicts hundreds of years previously.

        In the area that we have been discussing, the distribution of Communion, the words “by means of the unity of their voices” implies quite strongly that having the choir sing alone to the complete exclusion of the people at this time is not what the Church envisages, even if by historical accident (as I explained) the next paragraph happens to specify some choir-only items.

      8. @Paul Inwood – comment #98:
        Just one more thing, before I attend to my neglected domestic church for the day.

        I just have to point out that the Gradual was not jettisoned. It, too, is still explicitly allowed in the GIRM. But, I suppose that this is just another historical accident 🙂

        The fact remains that as long as the church explicitly states that we may sing certain things at certain times, it is rather fruitless to argue that this is not really what the church means. I don’t think your argument will (or should) change widespread practices.

      9. @Jared Ostermann – comment #94:

        Jared,

        I am not advancing a personal opinion, and it is certainly not my authority to “sort” paragraphs. I am quite sure, however, that it is my duty to recognize that not all paragraphs are at the same level, that there is a hierarchy of values. The trick is discerning what is more important and what is less important, and then focusing on that. I return once again to us asking ourselves what the core values are, and why they are, rather than arguing about details of implementation which can and do change.

      10. @Paul Inwood – comment #97:
        Paul,

        To the extent that you teach or advocate that the choir should never sing alone at communion, you are advocating a personal reading of the documents – your opinion of what they mean (since it is clear that is not what they explicitly say).

        So much depends on how you cast the narrative, doesn’t it? Perhaps the phrase “unity of their voices” is the agenda-driven bit, that needed a healthy balance from the next paragraph.

        But I think a more constructive reading of the situation is that those drafting were trying to advance a good, and central tenet of the liturgical reform: the congregation should sing more. Then, perhaps a more chorally-inclined group said “we just need to make it clear that the choir is not BANNED from singing alone.” And so, thankfully, we have both the encouragement to involve the congregation, and the explicit clarification that the choir can still sing alone. A healthy balance, allowing for a full range of pastoral approaches.

        The two things need not be mutually-exclusive, even in one liturgy. The choir may sing after, or before, the congregation sings. I have to say, the inclusion of a choral motet at communion (again, very often not to the exclusion of a congregational piece) is extremely common. Many, many people would strongly disagree that the choir should never sing alone at communion.

      11. @Jared Ostermann – comment #99:

        The two things need not be mutually-exclusive, even in one liturgy. The choir may sing after, or before, the congregation sings. I have to say, the inclusion of a choral motet at communion (again, very often not to the exclusion of a congregational piece) is extremely common.

        Of course it is, and the two things need not be mutually exclusive. But in practice, in many places the people are being deprived of the singing that is rightfully theirs. A choir motet and organ noodles are all that happens during Communion. The longer we perpetuate this situation, the longer it will take people to realize, as Jim pointed out so well further up this thread, that Communion is not an individual thing at all. It is “Com-union”, not “Me and Jesus” so much as “We and Jesus”. Reception of Communion is a communal action, and music can help to make that clear for the assembly over time.

        As far as motets are concerned, I am advocating us looking again at the Church’s tradition, which is to use the antiphon-psalm form at Communion, as at the Entrance. Singing motets gets nowhere near a return to that tradition.

        We only sing motets at Communion because, until recently, there was no problem about doing that in what was essentially a non-participatory, spectator liturgy. The postconciliar liturgy is a very different animal in that respect, and the problem is that we have tried to continue celebrating it in a preconciliar way. That is precisely why, as you say, Many, many people would strongly disagree that the choir should never sing alone at communion. Of course they would because, like many of those in the pews, they have not understood that Communion in the postconciliar rite is very different from Communion in the preconciliar rite.

        With education and formation over time, these things can and do change, and music is a key element in that change. Just because we haven’t realized for over 40 years that perceptions and practices need to move forward is no reason not to start that process now.

  48. As a person who likes congregational singing and the sung Mass and have promoted it throughout my priesthood, I think the post Vatican II liturgists have made way too much out of singing the Mass and the importance of congregational singing. I have known many fine Catholics who are great Catholics bringing their faith to their homes, places of work and recreation who never sing at Mass and prefer a Mass with no music. They care for the poor are good spouses and parents and generous with their time, talent and treasure. They are profoundly prayerful and spiritual. Music and the proliferation of musical forms for the Mass does little to make better Catholics although some might think that they sound better when singing. It seems we are making an idol out of liturgical music and making sure people sing. In today’s Church, I’m glad Catholics are in the pews; whether or not they sing is less important. Maybe the pre-Vatican II High Mass as a supposed anomaly at that time is the way to go again with more shorter low Masses when more people were in the pews and perhaps more less committed Catholics actually bothered to come to Mass who didn’t feel harangued by liturgists and liturgical musicians. I say this partly with tongue in cheek but not entirely.

    1. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #84:
      I disagree with one point – that progressive liturgists have made too much a point of singing the Mass. They make a point of singing some things a certain way, but singing the actual Mass itself, meaning its prayers and dialogues, has totally been neglected. There is no such thing as a sung Mass for the vast majority of Catholics, but rather a really long low Mass where only a few extra things are sung.

      I ended up attending an OF last week and it turned out they had a guest priest. He started out Mass by singing the dialogues, but stopped when he figured out nobody knew how to sing the responses, not even an Amen.

      I love the propers and want them sung anywhere there is an able choir, but sung Mass should become the norm first.

      1. @Jack Wayne – comment #88:
        Jack, it wasn’t until I started celebrating the EF Mass that I realized that the emphasis over the years in the OF has been misdirected or truncated. The EF Mass is very specific in terms of what is chanted and not chanted in the Sung Mass. The Introit is chanted as a processional covering the private recitation of the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, through its incensing–no other options except style of chanting are offered. It is clear what the priest chants and doesn’t chant. My only problem with the EF is that many who attend feel they shouldn’t join in with the choir or servers parts. That’s a shame especially if easy to chant versions of the parts of the Mass are chosen and used regularly. I don’t think the laity need to chant the Introit offertory or Communion antiphons as listening is a form of participation. Ignoring it completely or not paying attention would not be participation. Hymns in the Low Mass were never seen as a part of the Mass but added, but since Vatican II with the help of the GIRM we’ve made hymns somehow integral to the Mass when in fact hymn singing not our Latin Rite heritage for the Mass but more for the Liturgy of the Hours. There seems to be a manufactured or concocted reasons in the post-Vatican II GIRM for hymn singing. I’m not opposed to hymns at Mass, but let’s be clear these aren’t necessary or integral to the Latin Rite Mass, the propers are. In terms of community, those at Mass whether they are introverted or extroverted, tuned in or tuned out form the Body of Christ with Jesus as their Head for Christ makes it so, not our so-called active participation in song.

      2. @Jack Wayne – comment #88:
        This was the wisest thing I read on this whole thread. We should be moving to Sung Mass, not singing at Mass.

  49. Regarding the “Improvisation of the Liturgical Texts,” Mr. Tucker suggests that it is “ridiculously presumptuous for any one person to imagine that he has a better idea than the liturgical text formed from 2,000 years of tradition.”

    As one who “improvises” with some frequency, I share Fr. Feehily’s desire to improve on the English translations that we have at present. And it is most certainly the translations, and the translation philosophy of L.A., that many of us struggle with. The “better idea” is to make the prayers more understandable, more meaningful, and syntactically congruent with the language of the people for whom and with whom they are prayed.

    While the texts are “formed from 2,000 years of tradition,” the current translations are not. The translation does not enjoy the venerable status of age.

  50. Singing is a spiritual act. The breath we take in is an encounter with God’s Breath, the Holy Spirit. The song we breathe out is filled with that same Spirit. Immersion in that Spirit is the best spiritual preparation for communion IMO. Which is not to say that it is the only way to prepare, or that the Holy Spirit is the only spirit that inspires song.

    The spiritual union expressed through united voices “brings out more clearly the ‘communitarian’ character of the procession to receive the Eucharist.” The procession is too easily seen as a bunch of individuals lining up for something, rather than the gathering of disparate individuals to form the Body of Christ.

  51. Five Things that Ruin the Mass:
    1. The cantor blows a kiss to the assembly at the sign of peace
    2. A family of six passes around the bottle of GermX after the sign of peace
    3. An abundance of candalabras on the altar
    4. A deacon who does exegesis on the scriptures that only his mother would love
    5. A presider who has not prepared and prayed over the beautifully poetic and english friendly Third Edition of the Roman Missal

  52. Where there is tension, and the bishop does not provide definitive resolution, don’t wing it but seek your resolution from a broad, deep and *informed* consensus of the faithful at large (not pastoral or liturgical commissions which tend over time to mirror the power establishment in a parish), which takes lots of time and work. (And it should be revisited as generations change.) The most common problem is that that faithful at large are not given the tools to make an informed discernment: they don’t have roughly equal familiarity with the various options – in such a situation, merely opting for the most familiar is not dispositive in any meaningful sense. Thus, one can play textual lawyer all one wants (a particularly weak place for progressives to place ourselves in, because it ends up in a stalemate at best), but it avails little.

  53. Paul Inwood #75: “So that the assembly can sing those refrains from memory while a cantor or choir sings the verses, thus obviating the need for books in the procession.”
    Maybe that’s why people don’t sing, because over and over (during Mass), all they are given are refrains, at the command of the song leader up front. Then they go back to their audience status as s/he sings at them till it’s ‘their turn’ again.
    “The fact that it often appears more like a queue than a procession is because of the way people line up instead of waiting for their row’s turn and then moving out of their pews and walking to the front (or wherever the distribution point is).”
    And the old Mass had a lot of rules? I’ve been trying to find this rubric somewhere.
    “no one has thought to give them the correct kind of repertoire. And if at the end of Communion the musicians start a solo piece or choir meditation, they have clearly not read GIRM 88 which suggests a hymn or canticle sung the entire congregation.”
    Trust me, the parishes in my town give the ‘correct repertoire’ you’d be well pleased, and still very few sing. But big brother knows best. And GIRM 88 suggests or commands?
    Paul Inwood #83: “Even the readings are not always proper any longer, when there is a choice offered. Two easy examples: those where both a long and a shorter form are offered, and those where there are two alternatives offered for Years B and C.”
    They are still the propers for the day, regardless if the long or short form of the same Gospel is read, or if there are alternatives. They are still the readings prescribed for that day.
    Jared Ostermann #96: “Also participation through listening and interior unity with the choir… the fact that unity can be fostered without the whole congregation physically joining in.”
    I absolutely agree with you Jared, just replace ‘choir’ with ‘song leader.’ Most Masses are full of this ‘interior unity.’
    Continued.

  54. Paul Inwood #97: “I am quite sure, however, that it is my duty to recognize that not all paragraphs are at the same level, that there is a hierarchy of values. The trick is discerning what is more important and what is less important, and then focusing on that.”
    Use the ‘Sorting Hat’ perhaps?
    Paul Inwood #101: “But in practice, in many places the people are being deprived of the singing that is rightfully theirs.”
    After they’ve been cajoled into singing at the prompting of their smiling song leader for the last 30 minutes or so? It’s their right? But a Bill of Rights for Mass? Awesome suggestion! What about silent or interior preparation and thanksgiving? No rights there. What about the right to have the prayers prayed as they are given or rubrics followed as they are written, not something new, improvised, or tweaked every week because it’s fresh and inspiring? Or there either.

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