Massive Music Reforms Mandated in Marquette

Wow. I think this is a high-water mark, anywhere, any place, since Vatican II.

Bishop John Doerfler of the diocese of Marquette, Michigan, building on the work of his liturgically traditionalist predecessor Alexander Sample, has mandated far-reaching music reforms for every parish in his diocese:

  • every parish will sing the English missal chants for part of the year;
  • every parish will sing the Latin Mass parts for part of the year;
  • every parish will sing Communion antiphons every Sunday to a simple tone;
  • other hymnals will eventually be eliminated and a new diocesan hymnal will be used.

Here’s the document:

Download (PDF, 64KB)

In an accompanying letter dated yesterday and sent out with the new instruction to priests, deacons, and pastoral coordinators, Bishop Doerfler says that he received invaluable advice from the Priests’ Council in drafting this instruction.

I’m intrigued by the quick turn-around for input on the new diocesan hymnal – everything has to be submitted by this April. That sounds like a recipe for disaster or mediocrity, frankly. Editing a high-quality hymnal takes a long time (think 5 or 8 years) and involves lots of expertise in lots of areas from liturgists, musicians, poets, outlay editors, and so forth. But the plan is to have the hymnal out already by 2017.

How will parishes compile their suggestions, and on what grounds? And how will the diocese secure copyrights for all the materials from various publishers in widespread use? Will the publishers allow their materials to be used in a hymnal not of their own production?

Maybe so. Maybe there is a plan for this ambitious agenda to be carried out in short order.

And the switch to chant in English and Latin – how will that work?

I’m not sure how to put this, for I’m an advocate of English and Latin chant, and I’m heartened that we’ve begun to use more of it at St. John’s Abbey. We use the ICEL Missal chants, and we’ve gone from one to two Latin Mass settings, with two more in the daily Mass binders that I put together in conjunction with the new missal. I was involved in composing the ICEL English chant, so I have a bit of a bias in favor of it.

But. This a monastery, and Anthony Ruff is the music director. How will it work in every parish of every kind in this diocese to move to a type of music so foreign to most of the people? How will it be carried out in the smallest parishes with the most limited resources? Will it draw people in, or will it drive them away?

I’ve never been to the Diocese of Marquette. But I think of my home parish, a tiny rural parish in southern Minnesota which is part of a four-parish cluster served by one priest. The musicians there are generous, and they do their very best playing electric piano or guitar. Very occasionally there is an organist for the small electronic organ.

Who would teach this congregation to sing English chant, and how would it go over? I don’t see it happening, to be honest. And Latin? Dream on.

Mind you, this is not because Vatican II was mis-implemented and the Latin chant was thrown out and a well-rooted tradition was abandoned. The parishioners have never sung a Latin Mass from the time my home parish was founded over a hundred years ago. Like in many or most of the small parishes in the area, there were mostly Low Masses in the old days with perhaps a small choir singing English hymns or maybe Latin hymns or maybe Latin Mass parts – or, more likely, there was no choir and no singing at all at Sunday Mass.

The people in my home parish are generous and cooperative and well-disposed toward the leadership of priests and sisters and musicians- at least they were when I was growing up, and I don’t believe they’ve changed. But my sense is that if you tried to introduce a congregational Latin Sanctus, you would not get more than maybe 5-10% to join in. I’m being generous. The rest would wait it out and wonder what on earth is going on.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope the implementation of this directive goes well, is well-received, and builds up the church in Marquette.

This is not quite the way I would encourage the use of more English chant and Latin chant, which is dear to my heart. But maybe this way will work well in Marquette.

It will be interesting to hear how all this goes.






  1. I suspect they will limit hymnody to items in the public domain or under Creative Commons copyright licenses. (“As for items requested that are under copyright, well, here’s a response: we took your request under consideration but were unable to receive approval from the copyright holder within the necessary timeframe. Next!”) As for settings of the Ordo and psalms, they’d need to get approval from the respective holders of copyrights of those, but for Latin can choose a good number of public domain items.

    I might contrast this approach to building a hymnal or the more commercially oriented approach to the patient and painstaking approach that Dr Theodore Marier took of carefully discerned sorting of suitable and non-suitable things over a generation in a live parish context.

    It might end up illustrating how the Amazon Prime approach (I-want-what-I-want-and-I-want-it-now; full disclosure, I am an AP member – started for getting supplies to my elderly parents) is pervasive even for seemingly traditional goals.

  2. “Who would teach this congregation to sing English chant, and how would it go over? I don’t see it happening, to be honest. And Latin? Dream on.”

    Sorry, Father, but you are being far too pessimistic. The simple chants that the bishop mentions can be learned by little kids in about 15 minutes. I have seen a parish implement the Missa Jubilate Deo at the start of Lent and by the end of it, everyone is singing. It’s not that hard — and it’s even better without organ, because people can actually hear the cantor and one another.

    “Mind you, this is not because Vatican II was mis-implemented and the Latin chant was thrown out and a well-rooted tradition was abandoned.”

    Whether there was a well-rooted tradition in a given place or not (certainly in places like London the music directors had to FIGHT against the vandals who wanted to chuck out the chanting they had been doing as long as anyone could remember), Vatican II asked that chant be restored to its rightful place. We know that afterwards there was the sound of crickets, or worse, guitars.

    1. @Peter Kwasniewski:
      Ah yes, the “it’s so simple anyone can do it” argument. Anyone, that is, who is trained in reading music and/or chant notation, has a strong and clear voice to lead/teach a congregation perhaps without accompaniment, and has the confidence/will/authority to get up in front of the parish and lead them. Surely every parish has such a person on hand. And surely every congregation will take up this challenge, even those places where few people sing anything, ever.

  3. I wonder how this bishop will commemorate the Jubilee Year of Mercy? By declaring that every parish will sponsor a Syrian refugee family and every parishioner learn to speak enough Arabic to welcome them? Certainly possible and a more worthwhile effort.

    1. @Linda Daily:
      Honestly, this change by the Bishop should be seen as an integral part of the Year of Mercy. For far too long, we have had our patrimony withheld from us, because some people are convinced that the people in the pew are incapable.

      My parish in the OF moved to the Missa Iubilate Deo hymnal 10 years ago. It took all of about 6 weeks for it to sound satisfactory, and the Credo and Gloria was included – and the Bishop does’t even include those. (My only complaint is that the Agnus Dei is tonally for the Requiem.) And, as a note: “every parish will sing the Latin Mass parts for part of the year” is not really true, as they omit parts of the Ordinary that would be chanted normally. (And of course, the simple Kyrie is Greek.)

      I am going to thoroughly enjoy watching this test tube.

      1. @Todd Orbitz:

        Not so much an issue of capability, but as I said above, no desire to learn/use it.

        Patrimony… good grief. The Church DID exist before Trent.

  4. As someone who has spent part of every year of the last couple of decades in the Diocese of Marquette, I am flabbergasted by this mandate. These parishes can do what they can do. There must be a more appropriate way of encouraging good liturgical music.

  5. I interpret this as a carte-blanche permission for high church parishes to tridentinize the Ordinary Form. I disagree, however, that tridentinization should be forced on every parish. The order to remove hymnals is especially pernicious. I strongly dislike modern hymnals (the most modern I support is The Hymnal 1940). Still, there must be a place for them, as well as cantors, in some parishes. However, let the tall-candles revel in this new order.

    I interpret this order more as a refutation of postconciliar liturgical Wißenschaft. Even though I have left the EF traditionalist orbit, I have returned to the Ordinary Form only to find that Thomas Day’s admonitions still hold sway in many parishes. Bishop John Doerfler’s vision, and not always the prevailing winds of liturgical science, affords a Mass in which musical quality, rather than quantity for its own sake, offers an assurance of genuine FCAP.

    I long for silence, to enter under the profound silence. A well planned chanted Mass affords many opportunities for the reflection of the mind. Chant is not song, but rather word and Word as amplified speech.

  6. Things must be going so well in the Marquette Diocese that Bishop John has time to attend to things like this. Why doesn’t he just tell the parishes which hymns to sing each week? Perhaps he can instruct the clergy on exactly what to preach on. And no doubt, people will pile into church like that scene from Sister Act when parishes start using all of this.

    Marquette – A great diocese not to be in.

  7. I wonder about the top-down “will learn” that is demanded in the letter. This should be an interesting experiment perhaps more in public relations than in music.

  8. There have been a few other ambitious music reform projects like this tried, though not to this extent. Those projects tend to dry up and blow away within a few months. I suspect that this time next year they’ll be saying, “Whatever happened to that thing we were supposed to do?”

  9. Fascinating. Marquette is a rural diocese whose largest city has about 30,000 residents. Hundreds of miles from one end to the other. I’ve only been to Mass at the retreat center and at the cathedral.

    My sense of small-town parishes in the upper Midwest is that usually volunteers lead the music, and if they lack any ownership in this project some few to some more might just decide to walk, leaving Father to do the rehearsal five minutes before Mass. The challenge with plainchant is twofold: confidence, which impacts tempo. It was the main reason chant wasn’t a serious consideration in most places after Vatican II: hymnody and even folk music were just better musically in presentation.

    This is an ambitious project, and it might even be an exciting one if not for the unspoken agenda of the elimination of texts deemed unsuitable. The bar, by the way, for some people is a bit lower on Eucharistic Prayers.

    I disagree with Anthony that this project need take five years, though I think it would be more prudent to extend the “gathering” period to about a year. I would also consider a few exciting possibilities:
    – commissioning at least one composer to set the Mass Ordinary
    – commissioning a few poets, preferably including local authors, to offer some hymn or song texts, possibly even based on writings of some of Upper Michigan’s early heroes of faith such as Bishop Frederic Baraga
    – and likewise, some original music compositions
    – providing for electronic versions, supplements, and such

    I think Advent 2018 is a reasonable roll-out date. I wonder if it will include service music for things like RCIA, funerals, and baptisms, and other rites. Indexes for planning, Scripture citations, etc.. A version with readings or without or both.

    4g is interesting: one needs the bishop’s permission for choral performance music. That really puts the clamp down on a creative local director, especially if there are reams of repertoire in the files purchased not so recently. I’ve been known to substitute out a piece like that at the last minute for reasons liturgical or practical. What then? Ask forgiveness? Who’s going to know?

    My sense: a missed opportunity, possibly imprudent. Good luck; they’re going to need it?

    1. @Todd Flowerday:

      I do not think that parish preparations for the prescriptions of the Diocese of Marquette are as complex as you have outlined.

      Let’s say that a parish decides to chant de angelis and orbis factor. Introduce the chants at the daily Mass, one setting at a time, one year at a time. With the aid of the celebrant, some of the daily communicants will memorize the setting over the course of months.

      Often there are one or two daily communicants who can sing well. On Sundays, these parishioners, stationed in the loft, could lead the rest of the congregation gradually. It is not (I would say never) necessary to hire a cantor, as chant is not projected onto the congregation but arises from the congregation. An organist, if available, can chant to aid the choir and laity in their chanting. Tunes may be provided outside of penitential seasons. Where an indult to use the organ throughout the year applies, softer accompaniment can be provided at all times.

      Alternately, in smaller churches or churches with good acoustics, the schola might chant from the front pews or the choir stalls.

      Resources required:
      Liber 1961 (some in the schola might prefer a Liber in modern notation).

      I don’t see why “the implementation” must be a grand event.

      1. @Jordan Zarembo:
        Largely agreed. But I haven’t prescribed a big rollout; the bishop has. As for musical personnel, this will take some training and confidence to pull off well. James Hansen used to be the diocesan liturgy director, so we will see how his legacy has held up.

        Unison singing seems simple enough on the surface. I can imagine it could be made more difficult by people resisting the training. That Communion antiphon of the week will be the biggest stumbling block, I predict.

        I wouldn’t envision “hiring” cantors at all. As it is, I doubt there are many in the diocese. Good music doesn’t require paid leadership, but it does require skilled persons formed in music. Especially when a lot of new music is involved.

  10. What strikes me as odd about the letter is the bishop talks about building on the legacy of Abp. Sample. Who is now in position as Abp of Portland to have a fair amount of oversight of one of he largest music publishers in the country. I believe that “Sing to the Lord” insisted that the local ordinaries of the publishers make sure the hymnals, etc were free of theological error right? So the construction of a hymnal feels more like “I don’t want the parishes singing Gather Us In anymore” rather than something more noble. How do you build on a legacy but then dismiss whatever work your predecessor is currently doing?

  11. I know that the Diocese of Marquette has regular church music workshops. I do believe it is possible for even the smallest parishes to sing the Missal chants and the Latin, with good education. That’s the key; they don’t necessarily need a professional musician to “lead” them. I think we also need to be careful about opposing those parts of this initiative that are clearly rooted in the documents. That said, there are parts of this that are not necessarily so. I do think the goal of having a unified repertoire for the diocese is a good one, and believe the U.S. Church made a major mistake by not having a national hymnal after the Council.

  12. Among the many questions I have about this mandate is a cluster of concerns connected with how it responds to the makeup of the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. While the demography of the Diocese of Marquette is largely white, there are Latin@s in that region (the diocesan website indicates, for example, that the bishop himself recently celebrated a Spanish Mass) as well as other language and cultural groups. I’ll focus my questions on Spanish-praying Catholics since they are, by all accounts, the most numerically significant group outside of English-praying Catholics in the U.S. But my concerns are not limited to those.

    Does this mandate mean that those who worship in Spanish (or any languages other than Latin or English) would be confined to what, if any, Spanish language titles appear in the diocesan hymnal or be forced to make a special request for every piece of music they’d like to use that’s not in it?

    Does the instruction that every parish and school be required to learn to chant the Ordinary in English include non-English language communities?

    Has this letter been translated into Spanish so that Spanish speakers might contribute hymns and songs for consideration?

    If so, will the committee be comprised of a culturally diverse group of people able to evaluate the merits of those pieces?

    Does this mandate prohibit Spanish-praying liturgical musicians from purchasing Flor y Canto, Oramos Cantando, or Cantos del Pueblo de Dios?

    Will the diocesan workshops be held in multiple languages?

    Even if there are few Latin@s at present, how does this limit possible evangelization and hospitality for the future?

    If there are exceptions for non-English speakers, why? Is the implementation of the “most beautiful musical expression” only important for a certain demographic, race, or class?

    1. @Tony Alonso:
      That is a good point. Presumably, the other-language Masses might be exempted from the English Missal settings? There is no reason that they should not learn the Latin, though. Spanish speakers would have an easy time with it; it might present a challenge to Asian language speakers. I wouldn’t recommend mandating vernacular Spanish Missal chants until the U.S. Spanish Missal is published.

    2. @Tony Alonso:

      Practically speaking, there are very, very few Spanish speakers in upper Michigan, so I suspect the answer to most of your questions is ‘no’ to inclusion and ‘yes’ to prohibitions and likely to stay that way. The region isn’t drawing more population.

  13. One possible train wreck: the different tonality/mode of the ICEL ‘Mass 5’ Glory to God. If I were cantoring this a capella with a congregation of 50, I would start in Lent or Advent and secure the rest. Then I (or the kind celebrant :)) would drill the transition from Lord of Mercy to Glory to God until comfortable, or if necessary one-finger the first phrase on any instrument handy. [I would consider singing Lord Have Mercy relatively one whole step lower than suggested, to share reciting tone, but am usually thinking too much.] I like that Glory to God, because it word-paints the dramatic word changes better than many more elaborate ones, and you learn a usable psalm tone 4 that would help elsewhere with this manifestly insane grand scheme.

    Otherwise I see no practical problems– I’ve led Jubilate Deo (without Gloria, sorry :)) ‘a cap with a congregation of 50’ without incident, and Mom could too. So I (more politetly) concur with poster #2, who clearly is an instrumentalist or knows one :).

  14. I’m guessing there’s not a whole lot to do at the Marquette chancery. How about a multi year project to teach and encourage the people of God in every parish to praise God in joyful song, even during the communion procession. This could involve in service training to show all priests how important their participation in the singing is for the whole assembly. Our parish sings a Kyrie, a Latin gospel acclamation, and the Agnus Dei throughout Lent. That’s not a problem. There are a few other Latin pieces that we sing at various points in the year. But we sing all this alongside Be Not Afraid, Gather Us In, and All Are Welcome…..songs the people own and sing with gusto. We also know 6 settings of the Ordinary.

  15. Pardon my ignorance, but why does the bishop of Marquette place such emphasis on singing the communion antiphon in addition to (and before) the communion hymn? I’ve been out in well over 50 parishes for Sunday Mass in the last ten years, and in all but one or two the hymn took the place of the antiphon, just as the opening hymn replaces the entrance antiphon as a general practice.

    1. @Michael Slusser:
      I agree. Really #3 is full of problems, but might I warmly suggest that rather than say your communion hymn replaces the antiphon, as if it were a lesser thing or a substitute, say instead you have chosen your own communion song, as prescribed by the GIRM (87/4). It’s just as valid as the Communion Antiphon in the Missal. In fact the more so, since you have decided it works better in your pastoral circumstances.

      I’m looking forward to seeing the ritual music content for the Marquette hymnal: Holy Orders, Dedication of a Church, RCIA, Baptism, Confirmation, Funerals, Weddings, etc. Not to mention Palm Sunday and the Triduum. Quite an undertaking, and if well done, perhaps useful to many. Will there be a way others can purchase and use this hymnal? Will there be separate accompaniment books? Instrumental resources? Maybe they will join to make it easier to use any original music, or make it just creative commons.

      1. @David Mathers:
        I don’t think having a Communion song replace the official prayer of the Church for that day’s Mass, the Communion Antiphon, because the music director decides it works better is a good thing.

      2. @Jay Edward:

        What’s really interesting is that the Constitution on the Liturgy, Musicam sacram and the GIRM all permit, and, one could argue, actually encourage, the enlargement of the ‘Mass Proper’ repertoire beyond that received from the pre-conciliar Missal.

        As for as music directors making these decisions, I assume you wouldn’t object to a bishop making this call one way or the other, since he certainly has the right. In fact most bishops in the US either have actively or passively delegated the responsibility for these decisions to the pastors of their parishes (who understand their own communities’ needs better) and who have in turn delegated this (or collaborate with) the expert(s) they have invited to ministry – their music directors. The result is that in general those making these decisions are the ones most competent and best placed to do so.

    2. @Michael Slusser: when the Third Typical Edition of the Missal was implemented, we also took advantage of that moment to begin singing the communion antiphon before the communion hymn. I simply instructed our cantors to chant the antiphon to a Saint Meinrad tone, and I wrote out the antiphon for the cantors each week. We decided to have sing the communion antiphon while the priest and ministers were receiving communion. It flowed well.

  16. Part of what gets my goat, and is so prevalent here, is this fixation on Latin. Now I’m 34, I’ve been in music ministry for 17 years, and in a wide-variety of settings, including 4 summers at the parish on Mackinac Island MI, part of the Marquette Diocese. I would call these average parishes, no particular left or right bent in them. One was affluent, one was blue collar, etc… never was there any sort of desire for latin. When we do use latin, the occasional Agnus Dei, Gloria refrain in latin (John Carroll Mass), an Ubi Caritas, there is no one that has come to me and said “Thank God! Latin!”
    Yet it is constantly trotted by out by some that Vatican II said we should keep it (while often dismissing or glossing over many other things Vatican II said). But V2 was very clear – it is a council that is not finished. We’ve had 50 years of implementation and the absolute vast majority of Catholics world-wide have no vested interest in latin. Whether a few like it or not, the vernacular is the preferred norm and is here to stay. Because Vatican 2 wants us to learn some latin, and it’s our heritage mean little to nothing to people. Latin does not make us Roman Catholics. The Eucharist does. Latin is not an essential of the faith. This obsession of it borders on idolatry. As if the Church was in perfect shape and all spoke latin proficiently prior to that ol V2. Kind of like how Beaver Cleaver’s family was the norm of families in the 50s. It’s a farce. God doesn’t understand us better when we speak/sing latin. (Most of us) aren’t closer to God when we praise Him in latin.
    I sing in our community choir and we frequently do requiems. Our last was the Durufle. Beautiful. But I’m often focused on proper pronunciation text-wise. Imagine Joe or Jane Pewdweller who do not understand latin focusing on the text and a chant melody. For many who DO engage in the singing, their attention will be on that. Many simply won’t engage and just tune out. It’s not that Vatican II was implemented poorly – it’s that the people…

    1. @Sean Whelan:
      Sean, the issue is not that Vatican II encourages or discourages Latin, but that it specifically asked that all Catholics throughout the world learn the same Latin chant Mass, which turned out to be the Jubilate Deo Mass that is mandated here. That cannot simply be dismissed by saying that reform is ongoing, because it is still valid. Ongoing reforms do not replace it. As far as diction goes, so what if the Latin is not perfectly pronounced by the congregation. We don’t speak English correctly either, and Latin is actually easier, once you get used to it.

      1. @Doug O’Neill:

        It asked and the people answered. And why did they ask? Patrimony? How does that connect with people? I don’t see huge liturgies in the US using the chants. We’re far more unified currently singing A Community Mass or Mass of Creation. It is precisely that Vatican II couldn’t foresee the future that it was left unfinished – wisely this was not mandated. Sung liturgy has exploded, at least here in the US, something unheard of prior to the council.

        And lets not get into following to a T what the Vatican Council specifically asked for when a segment of the faith have ignored the fact that V2 abrogated the old Mass, and continue to re-write history to prove their point.

      2. @Sean Whelan:
        Sorry, but that is simply not true. Community Mass and Mass of Creation are English Masses not sung by most of the world. What you mean is English unity, which smacks of an American arrogance. I don’t know why you bring up the old Mass, because that is irrelevant to this discussion. You seem to be just as guilty of cherry-picking VII. Except that you are wrong about that as well. Even if it was not the norm, there were certainly sung Masses prior to the Council. And really, the norm now is not a sung Mass, but rather songs during a spoken Mass, which is actually contrary to what VII, Musicam sacram, and even the relatively recent Sing to the Lord suggest as the ideal.

  17. The part about the Mass ordinary seems very reasonable and doable – the communion antiphons are what will be the most difficult part (assuming nobody ever sings the responsorial psalm).

    The Jubilate Deo chants are the easiest to learn, are published in pretty much every major hymnal I’ve ever seen (and may even already be in regular use in some parishes), and he chose the three shortest most repetitive pieces to learn. It’s not like he’s demanding a chanted credo or gloria.

    I belonged to a rural parish cluster in southern Michigan when I was a teenager. We sang the responsorial psalm and the usual Mass parts and antiphons just fine (though only in English and according to the musical settings popular in the 80s and 90s).

  18. I would look on our brother John’s efforts with a little more understanding if he were transparent about his own liturgical preparation, and if he were leading the way by his own commitment to excellence. In the Latin as well as the other rites, the presider does most of the chanting and has the primary role in promoting “meet and right” celebration by his own skill and dedication. But not a word in this letter about how he and the rest of his clergy will take part besides policing the efforts of the rest of the church of the Upper Peninsula. He also fails to mention sung proclamation of the scripture readings; that may come later. My personal view on this and similar initiatives: the way to go is forward, not backward. Even the Latin rite, historically known for its conservatism, preserved only the simplest and most central of the Greek prayers (Kyrie Eleison at every mass, and Hagios ho Theos on Good Friday).

    1. @Paul Schlachter:
      Why would he mention sung proclamation of the readings? That is the lowest priority in singing the Mass. Also, it is literally impossible to go backward in time. Everything is forward, although you can choose different paths.

      1. @Doug O’Neill:
        Why shouldn’t he? And what makes it lowest priority? We’re talking about the Liturgy of the Word and, as the bishop may be aware, the Gospel and occasionally the Epistle were chanted (not sung) at masses in the years before he was born. If the bishop wants to promote sacred music in parishes, why not go all the way and look for pools of talent where they exist? Quite a few lectors are capable of chanting. I am a lector myself and am so capable, for what it’s worth. But I definitely feel that the bishop’s initiative will gain support from the church of the Upper Peninsula depending on the skill and personal commitment of mass presiders such as his clergy and especially himself.

      2. @Paul Schlachter:
        I suspect he was referring to this order in Musicam Sacram (1967):

        “28. The distinction between solemn, sung and read Mass, sanctioned by the Instruction of 1958 (n. 3), is retained, according to the traditional liturgical laws at present in force. However, for the sung Mass (Missa cantata), different degrees of participation are put forward here for reasons of pastoral usefulness, so that it may become easier to make the celebration of Mass more beautiful by singing, according to the capabilities of each congregation.

        These degrees are so arranged that the first may be used even by itself, but the second and third, wholly or partially, may never be used without the first. In this way the faithful will be continually led towards an ever greater participation in the singing.

        29. The following belong to the first degree:

        (a) In the entrance rites: the greeting of the priest together with the reply of the people; the prayer.

        (b) In the Liturgy of the Word: the acclamations at the Gospel.

        (c) In the Eucharistic Liturgy: the prayer over the offerings; the preface with its dialogue and the Sanctus; the final doxology of the Canon, the Lord’s prayer with its introduction and embolism; the Pax Domini; the prayer after the Communion; the formulas of dismissal.

        30. The following belong to the second degree:

        (a) the Kyrie, Gloria and Agnus Dei;

        (b) the Creed;

        (c) the prayer of the faithful.

        31. The following belong to the third degree:

        (a) the songs at the Entrance and Communion processions;

        (b) the songs after the Lesson or Epistle;

        (c) the Alleluia before the Gospel;

        (d) the song at the Offertory;

        (e) the readings of Sacred Scripture, unless it seems more suitable to proclaim them without singing.”

      3. @Karl Liam Saur:
        Yes, thanks, that is fundamentally what I was referring to. The acclamations surrounding the readings ought to be sung, but not necessarily the readings themselves.

      4. I am really getting tired of the unfair characterizations. The use of antiphons and Latin is NOT pre-Vatican II; in fact, the way they are encouraged to be used was impossible before Vatican II. I have no interest in bringing back anything old just for the sake of doing something old, but I do want to bring beauty into the Mass that is sorely lacking. There is a good discussion to be had on the merits of this letter and its pastoral efficacy, but could we please stop these little grenades being lobbed against an enemy that does not exist?

  19. This is my diocese. I will certainly let you know how this works. I am really surprised by this. There has certainly been no input from music directors that I know.

    1. @Katherine LeDuc:
      I am very sorry to read this comment, Katherine. More than any of the comments on this post, your short but very important comment screams out to me. If there was truly no input from the lay music directors or “people in the pews” from parishes across the diocese, this remains one more decision made by one person (or a chosen few) that will impact so many of the faithful. I sincerely pray that this decision was not made lightly, in conversation with the people of God and that it bears good fruit for all who worship in the Diocese of Marquette.

  20. The Ordinary chant requirement isn’t a big deal, welcomed even. Common liturgical experience is part of what makes us Catholic. The Communion antiphon is ambitious but worth a try. The hymnal and choral setting ban is troubling. It’s nice to have a diocesan default or minimum repertoire but to ban others goes too far. I see this being widely ignored.

  21. We all know that the documents permit using songs and hymns for the Entrance, Procession of Gifts, and Communion in place of the antiphons. We also know that there are RTR people in the church, some in high places, who wish to “restore” to the NO as many elements that will make it more resemble the “old Mass”. They apparently believe that a NO with incense, more “traditional” vestments, Latin chants, antiphons, bells, sung propers, etc. will be more like what the council fathers envisioned and far more “reverent”. They also believe that the success of such a shift will result in more people in the pews and more priests for the pulpits. Not only do I not subscribe to such views, I know of few people who do…..except perhaps on this forum.
    For the last nearly forty years, the people in parishes I have served have not simply sung during Mass, they have sung the Mass as envisioned by the reform.

  22. I agree with many of the mandates that are listed in this document. However, some things are a bit weird. A diocesan hymnal could be a nice idea, but the submission date is way too soon. I also think that there are some good Catholic hymnals in existence where the diocese might not need to create one. For example, a practical consideration is to tell parishes that they must all purchase Worship IV (it has its issues, but seem superior than any OCP product).

    4g is also very problematic. I’m the organist at a Cathedral in the mid-South. We have a semi-professional choir, a huge music library, and a wonderful pipe organ. Every week we sing a motet at the offertory and communion (all either organ based or polyphonic). We have a very solid program and incorporate a fair amount of chant. Having to ask the bishop to perform every different piece of choral music is ridiculous. As good as this document’s intentions are, it would make my life much more complicated.

  23. Indeed this is ambitious. It is better to aim high than low. In 2011 Cardinal O’Malley mandated that all parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston use the ICEL Chants of the Roman Missal for a period of time. We distributed our recordings with a mixed schola and did workshops around the Diocese. We distributed free accompaniments for piano, guitar or organ to meet people halfway. Many hard working directors did their very best to learn and implement what they were asked to do. Others ignored it but we tried to lead by example, if not by fiat.

    Over four years later, the fruits have born out in many places if not in others. At Boston College, the students at St. Mary’s Chapel sing the Missal Chants robustly on any given weekday Mass. At Bethany Chapel, the employees of the Boston Archdiocese sing the Missal Chants robustly. Singing in Latin is no problem if the Missal Chants are mastered as they have been by everyday Catholics.

    It can be done, bit it won’t be easy, more because of the challenge of changing the local culture than because of technical difficulty. Lead by example.

    Aim high. If they achieve 70% or 80% of their goal, that will be of service to the Church.

  24. The paranoia about Latin here is unjustified: the “Jubilate Deo” Sanctus and Agnus are trivial. This is not RotR, this is not SSPX or FSSP. Lots of parishes already use these two at some point during the year anyway—parishes where not a word of Latin will probably otherwise be sung.

    The document’s address of communion antiphons is disappointing. The Missal antiphons for *speaking*. This is why they were added. Bl. Paul VI made this clear in the apostolic constitution that accompanies the post-V2 Missal: “The Introit and Communion antiphons have been adapted for read Masses.” It is regrettable that the translators of the U.S. edition of GIRM either didn’t know this, didn’t care, or had some other unknown agenda, as now we are flooded with various settings of the Missal antiphons.

    Much more sensible liturgically was/is the “Psallite” project, which set an actual set of texts that were conceived as a sung proper for the modern Mass.

    FWIW, I use Bruce Ford’s “The American Gradual”, which I’ve posted up at There are adaptations for the entire seasonal cycle up there. It’s handily the best solution I have seen for English Mass propers.

    The diocesan hymnal will have to bias heavily in favor of public domain music. Even so, who will do all the typesetting? Indexing? 11 months seems a paltry turnaround time!

    The mandate for diocesan approval of choral music will severely retard good choral programs … Of course, the bishop isn’t mandating anything that GIRM doesn’t already say. (This is one of the places where the Ext. Form is actually more lenient than the modern Mass!)

    Anyway, I suspect we’ll all want to stay tuned here …

    1. @Felipe Gasper:
      It’s not that American adaptation of the GIRM on this point was based on ignorance but reconsideration of whether the original intended restriction was necessary to maintain, especially given that the Missal antiphons could always have been sung as another suitable song…

      1. @Karl Liam Saur:
        I see it not so much as a “restriction” as just prudence.

        The Missal antiphons have several problems:
        1) They are “incomplete”, lacking any indication of what to sing as verses. I assume most of the published collections base their choices off of GR1974; however, that frequently doesn’t work because those verse choices are paired with the specific texts from GR1974, which often don’t match the Missal.
        2) They lack the variety that we find in the Gregorian texts.
        3) They reinforce the mindset that the Roman liturgy has no inherent musical language, that one need only set the texts of the Missal to music of whatever idiom and “all’s well”.

        The ICEL Antiphonary (i.e., the basis of Psallite) at least solved #1 and #2. #3 is a tough nut to crack if we want anything *but* the Gregorian propers; that said, the need for a new antiphonary is not clear-cut, IMO, as the Gregorian propers, even in the old rite, never corresponded strictly with the readings.

        I mean, sung Missal antiphons (with whatever verses) are surely an improvement over many options, so it’s not *that* bad, but it definitely falls short. Me, I’d love to see ICEL or the USCCB sponsor a project like The American Gradual but using texts approved for Roman liturgy. (One of TAG’s few shortcomings, from a Roman perspective, is that the approach to translation is rather “looser” than we use nowadays … but that’s a quibble.)

      2. @Felipe Gasper:

        My take on the American adaptation is that it resolves the argument that the Missal antiphons CAN’T be sung because they weren’t permitted to be sung. And the texts are often beautiful and can be better matched than the Gradual propers, and more clearly indicates an additional choice that is available as circumstance warrants. (I understand that the idea of choice is a big problem for some, and they are welcome to retain their consternation over that. In my world, I’ve seen the singing of Missal antiphons as a lovely addition to quiver. It’s something that should not be “problematized”, shall we say.)

  25. Katharine LeDuc please take some solace knowing this directive seems to not consult Jesus either. He would be surprised by the content and tone. The Sabbath was made for men not men for the Sabbath. Should we probably avoid eating grain when we walk through fields too?

  26. I LOVE the idea of teaching Catholic schoolchildren a basic repertoire of simple chants (what is the point of Catholic schools if we don’t take at least this basic step?). It’s a no-brainer, takes very little effort (we’re not talking about establishing children’s choir schools here), and promotes basic musical unity and awareness down the road.

    I also appreciate the idea that every parish should know at least a couple of basic chant Ordinaries. Again, it seems like a no-brainer.

    The idea of a diocesan hymnal is much less appealing to me – the issues Fr. Anthony and others have raised are quite valid (copyright, the possibility that the final quick effort won’t be very high quality, the issue of who decides what is included and how, etc.). I wish a positive plan and diocesan-wide team effort to learn some basic unitive repertoire could have sufficed here, without the appearance of top-down micromanagement of parish music.

  27. Considering the previous bishop, Alexander King Sample, you can bet your bottom dollar this is all Reform of the Reform. The fact that musicians in the parishes weren’t consulted – well that speaks volumes.

    I love these people who think that prior to V2, every parish had an amazing schola, and it was all perfect High Mass, and everyone was a good faithful Catholic because they sang and spoke latin. It’s a church that never existed, and you armchair critics can sit back and pontificate on the ideal, but good luck implementing it in the Marquette Diocese.

    At least here in Gaylord, we had a liturgist-bishop (Patrick Cooney) and now a former choir director and organist-bishop (Steven Raica), so the liturgies are often done very well and sung strongly.

    Regarding the comment about the two US Masses and my arrogant view, I stand by it. There are differences world-wide. Why does the US ignore the universal rubrics on posture at Mass? We are supposed to kneel post-Sanctus and arise prior to the Memorial Acclamation, and then stay standing until Communion is over. Thinking that everything has to be exactly the same world-wide, and that singing in latin unifies us in some way more so than the vernacular is preposterous. There is the need for some latin and chant, but this idolatry of it is too much.

    Vatican II said we SHOULD know some, but it was not mandated. That’s all there is to it.

  28. Sean Whelan : I love these people who think that prior to V2, every parish had an amazing schola, and it was all perfect High Mass, and everyone was a good faithful Catholic because they sang and spoke latin.

    You’re talking about people who don’t exist.

    What was asked regarding latin doesn’t even come close to idolatry – it’s laughable to even suggest it does.

  29. I only see it backfiring.

    The notion that unification requires everyone to sing the exact same thing, the exact same way is stupid. Are we not allowed to have free will?

    There very well could be a few to several parishes without musicians due to this mandate. And how will that happen? Will they be fired? Quit? I also see hundreds of parishioners across the diocese leaving the church. People don’t like to be dictated.

  30. Imagine this scenario in all dioceses and parishes across the U.S.

    Does this mean that all new liturgical music that is continually being published with need special permission by the Diocesan Bishop to be used in parishes? So if I was hoping to publish a piece of music, I would be better of not publishing at all, because…who’s going to buy it? What parish will sing it? So much for using one’s talents to give honor and glory to God.

    Is God laughing at us right now?

    I wonder what Pope Francis has to say about this? Just curious. Surely this is a great way to evangelize and embrace this Jubilee Year of Mercy…

    1. @Kim Mandelkow:
      “Does this mean that all new liturgical music that is continually being published with need special permission by the Diocesan Bishop to be used in parishes?”

      You touch on a relevant if potentially sore nerve here. Relevant documents that are beyond this particular discussion envision diocesan bishops or the episcopal conference doing that. It’s largely been finessed historically in the USA (and probably most countries), but it would probably be difficult to *successfully* argue the bishop has gone beyond his authority as a general matter when the bishop is probably on stronger ground to assert he has not only the authority but the responsibility to do approve liturgical music that is, to put it crudely, not already in things like the Missal itself or the various Roman-approved books of liturgical chant (not the specific remedy of a uniform hymnal, but gatekeeping liturgical music). In other words, the answer to your practical objection might surprise a lot of people; it’s not a particular path I’d recommend people straining to take to object to this, because it might well boomerang.

  31. Were I actively working, I think that I could work with everything the document calls for, but as a director, I believe that 4.g is absolutely insane, and that the document planners have not thought through the implementation of it.
    You’re telling me that I have to submit all of my choral lit to the bishop for prior approval? Will the bishop be available for a late-night phone call on Wednesday night when the tenors croak and it’s obvious that the choir can’t “pull it off” for Sunday morning… and I have to change plans and select a different anthem? No. Just no.
    I have a better idea. You all send over a rep from the chancery and let’s spend the day going through our choral library. The music censor can pull all the octavos he doesn’t like and leave the rest with me. Let’s agree that everything that remains is on the approved this, and we will have full permission to use it. Then whenever I’m considering octavos for new music purchase, I’ll send them to your censor for examination.
    Honestly, this choral censorship plan is ridiculous.

  32. I hope this goes deeper. Someday, those who desire to restore dignity to divine worship will find that the chant that they long for has deeper roots. Pope Gregory the Great, of gregorian chant fame, wrote of a spirituality that undergirds chant, a charismatic, liturgical spirituality that is alien to most propnents of so-called reverence in chant. Pope Gregory wrote: “What we mean by the term jubilation is when we conceive such a great joy in the heart that we cannot express it in words; yet despite this the heart vents what it is feeling by means of the voice what it connot express by discursive speech.” He says, “ let the angels therefore praise because they know such brightness; but let men who are limited by speech, jubilate.” from Moralia, in Job 28, 35. Jubilation became the gradual and eventually standardized in chant notation. The, dare I say, this charismatic, spontaneity is lost to the world of modern chant.

  33. < Thinking that everything has to be exactly the same world-wide, and that singing in latin unifies us in some way more so than the vernacular is preposterous.

    Really? Soon, most Catholics in America will be Spanish-speaking. English-speaking Catholics worldwide are a small percentage of the Catholic population. So, by definition, if you could get most of the world singing the Sanctus from Mass XVIII, Latin would be more unifying than the vernacular. I believe that was the intention of the Council, and it is an admirable one. Of course diversity is encouraged as well, and nobody wants assimilation, but I rather like the theory that I could attend a vernacular Mass anywhere throughout the world, and actually be able to sing the Ordinary with them.

    1. @Doug O’Neill:
      While we may indeed soon have a much higher percentage of Catholics who are of Latino origin, a high proportion of those will be assimilated English speakers whose Spanish will be limited to the few phrase that many “Anglos” know. Com esta usted? Buenos Dias!

      1. @Jack Feehily:
        If the past assimilation of ethnic communities is an indicator, you are correct. However, I am not totally convinced it will be the same. There is no official U.S. language, and there shouldn’t be. More and more, the culture may become bilingual. And regardless of what happens, it is currently a pastoral reality. Also, we are talking about Catholics worldwide, not just in the U.S.

    1. @Ryan McCauslin:
      Well, it’s important that we are united in Christ through the Holy Spirit. The open question is whether unity requires uniformity. Being unified is not necessarily the same as united.

  34. At least the bishop and the official(s) with whom he thought up this scheme will have the consolation of knowing they are singing from the same hymn-sheet.

  35. i promised an update when there was actually something “Public” about this matter. the changes were discussed in our diocesan newspaper Our parish has begun the process of providing the bishop with the list of music that we would like included in the Diocesan hymnal. I made the preliminary list and have given it to our organist and music director for additions, deletions, and comments. we will be providing Title, Composer and /or (Text Author), biblical citations and Copyright holder. — Trying to make it as easy as possible for the bishop to include the stuff we want. Part of the change has to do with “doctrinal soundness” –I’m unsure exactly what the Bishop intends to pick on by that (No “bread” songs at communion (only “body and blood”)? ( No “Horizontal” rather than “vertical” hymns? ) but I haven’t chosen a single thing that isn’t in an already(supposedly) vetted hymnal so it should all be okay.

  36. Regarding, No “bread” songs at communion (only “body and blood”)? No “Horizontal” rather than “vertical” hymns?

    Some pastors have a higher standard than Rome, and perhaps they should check their Eucharistic prayers, propers, and Gospel Acclamations. And Panis Angelicus. And a sequence or two.

  37. Todd Flowerday : Regarding, No “bread” songs at communion (only “body and blood”)? No “Horizontal” rather than “vertical” hymns? Some pastors have a higher standard than Rome, and perhaps they should check their Eucharistic prayers, propers, and Gospel Acclamations. And Panis Angelicus. And a sequence or two.

    Todd, I agree with you. My concern is more that the pastors who think that way may have excessive influence with the bishop and/or his committee.

  38. I find a lot of the songs in the Catholic Church to have good messages but terrible music. Start writing the music so a 4th grader can sing it and also enjoy the songs. Your congregations will enjoy the songs more.
    1. Find someone to sing the Latin correctly.
    2. Get the recording machine, its called a computer.
    3. Make a digital recording of the chants.
    4. Make the digital recordings available to the churches.
    5. Use the recordings to teach the church goers,
    you don’t need anyone to play an instrument.
    6. contact me and I will help putting things together. No Charge

  39. In my parish we slowly introduced Mass of the Angles. We selected that setting because it is known and used around the world. Certainly, if one attends a Mass at St. Peter’s in Rome, you will hear it. We started with the Kyrie. The cantor sang it once, and then invited the people to sing it two more times. We also set the Alleluia and Amen to this melody.
    For the Gloria, we took about seven weeks to introduce it. Again, we broke it up. We had the cantor sing each line and then repeat it for the people to sing it. Once the people became familiare with it, we sang it all. Sanctus was taught in the same way. The Agnus Dei, we first only used the first part. After a few months, we introduced the second melody.
    Again, everything was done slowly. We taught the children in the school. They soaked it up immediately. We took time in high school religious ed program to practice the music. They said it sounded cool. Most people went along. Some said it sounded like the Vatican. The complaints had to do with the fact that at the beginning it took up more time.
    It is not difficult to do. Just a little good will. I am always astounded when I am at St. Peter’s. There are people from all over the world, Africa, Asia, young and old and they know to sing Mass of the Angels. It is a wonderful feeling to be there with everyone singing together the same music. The Spanish community and the French community do very well with Mass of the Angles because it is used in their countries.
    Go slowly. Introduce a little at a time. Seven weeks before Christmas, we took five min. before Mass to introduce a part of the Gloria. We explained that we were preparing for Christmas. Best wishes.

  40. Hello! This thread was an interesting read.

    I grew up in the Diocese of Marquette and was a volunteer music director there for many years. I still help out when I am in town to visit family. Overall attendance including music ministry participation has been in decline since before I was born. This is mostly due to attrition and many young believers moving away to find work. (Mining in the UP is mostly dead.) Many locals are not college graduates, and certainly not music majors expertly “formed” in Catholic tradition. We were happy to do approachable hymns and Mass settings; even singing the Psalms is relatively recent. We incorporated a few simple chants like Kyrie in Greek during Lent. Mozart or other classics as prelude were a welcome challenge to the musicians, and I really believe the congregation felt happy to just listen sometimes. There was also a smattering of pleasant Old World hymns brought over by immigrants 100+ years ago during the mining boom. Some of the purists will say that this is all very Protestant, but I’d say it was worshipful and functional.

    During then-Bishop Sample’s tenure, some ideas were promulgated (chant the Credo! the Our Father!) that were difficult and turned pew-dwellers off from even trying.

    A recent conversation with a music director friend back home confirmed that the preparations for Bishop D’s plan are on-track, including some workshops. There is concern, as mentioned above, that this was a top-down directive, and its chant aims are too high while censoring away anything familiar (including classic motets!)

    “Who will police it?” asked another post. The priests (who are either Indian or young excited RotR types) want to toe the line, even though many are not great singers themselves. If the volunteer musicians walk away, there will simply be no music at Mass; few parishes can afford to hire professionals.

    I hope this is implemented sensibly, else it will be a blow to an already fragile flock.

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