Uniformity, Idolatry, and Spoken Liturgy

This is bad, very bad. It’s now official: no pointing of orations in the new English missal. I’ll say more below about what pointing is and what orations are. But first some background.

In 1963 the Second Vatican Council said, Sacrosanctum concilium no. 112, “sacred music is to be considered the more holy in proportion as it is more closely connected with the liturgical action,” and “liturgical worship is given a more noble form when the divine services are celebrated solemnly in song.” Here’s the point: don’t just sing any old ditty, sing the liturgy. Sing the ritual texts. Think High Mass.

The first Roman instruction on sacred music after the council, the 1967 instruction Musicam Sacram, says at no. 7, “in selecting the parts which are to be sung, one should start with those that are by their nature of greater importance, and especially those which are to be sung by the priest or by the ministers, with the people replying, or those which are to be sung by the priest and people together.” Here’s the point: don’t just have the people sing any ditties while Father says Mass. Sing the Mass. Sing the parts where the people reply to the priest or minister. Some examples: The Lord be with you./And with your spirit. We ask this through Christ our Lord./Amen. The Word of the Lord./Thanks be to God. Go, the Mass is ended./Thanks be to God.

The 2002 General Instruction of the Roman Missal says at no. 40: “In the choosing of the parts actually to be sung, however, preference should be given to those that are of greater importance and especially to those to be sung by the priest or the deacon or the lector, with the people responding, or by the priest and people together.” Here’s the point: we still agree with the Second Vatican Council and the 1967 instruction. Sing the liturgy.

The U.S. bishops make the point even more clearly in their 2007 guidelines, Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship, when they write at no. 19, “The priest sings the presidential prayers and dialogues of the Liturgy according to his capabilities,” and at no. 115a: “Every effort should therefore be made to introduce or strengthen as a normative practice the singing of the dialogues between the priest, deacon, or lector and the people.” They treat the Collect (opening prayer), Prayer over the Offerings, and Prayer after Communion at nos. 151, 175, and 197 – in all cases with wording which encourages, or even suggests as normative, singing these orations. No. 197, for example, though providing for reciting or singing the Prayer after Communion, seems to suggest that singing is normative when it states, “At the conclusion of the prayer, the entire assembly sings the Amen as a sign of assent.”

The national conferences and ICEL have been working together the last couple years to make it possible for priests to carry out these directives and chant the orations – i.e., the Collect, Prayer over the Offerings, and Prayer after Communion. The idea was that these three orations would be “pointed” – i.e., marked to indicate where the priest changes pitch by going down or up a pitch. The US liturgy office and the FDLC have been giving workshops all over the US explaining to priests how to chant the orations with the pointing of the new missal.

Pointing had already been done in the first missal after Vatican II, the partially vernacular 1966 missal. It looked like this:

Missal 66 oration pointed
The priest would chant on C (or a lower pitch, just transpose the whole thing down), and at the first underlining he would chant this simple cadence formula: B  A  C. Then back to C, and at the second underlining drop a minor third, down to A for the final cadence. Quite simple, yes? Works well, yes?

At the ICEL website there is an explanation of how the pointing was to work in the new missal. If you’ve been tracking the occasional changes to the music posted here, you know that previously it said “All the presidential prayers in the Missal are pointed… according to the following formula.” This was when we all thought that all the prayers in the English missal would be pointed. But at some point ICEL changed the wording to “may be pointed…” This was when word started to come down that pointing might not be permitted. I hope poor ICEL doesn’t have to make more changes, or pull this post.

And now the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship in Rome has confirmed that it will not permit the orations to be pointed in the English Missal. Why? It deviates from the 2002 Latin missal. That would be, I guess, Febronianism or Josephinism. If national conferences began to act in such subordinationist disobedience, it would be only a small step further to nationalist neo-Gallican liturgies, such as the French bishops countenanced until they finally implemented the 1570 missal of Paul V (the “Tridentine” missal) in the second half of the 19th century. The grave and acute marks look small, but they represent an ominous precedent. Best to nip this in the bud.

On August 27 I posted the following on Pray Tell:

It is hard to imagine that there would be any objections to the addition of pointing marks to the English-language Missal. To prohibit pointing because such is not in the Latin Missal would be a new high-water mark of Pharisaic legalism in our Church. One hopes that the Roman authorities will give their warm support to the proposed pointing system. Even more, one hopes that the pointing will help priests in the spirited and reverent chanting of the orations.

I already knew then that the Roman authorities had prohibited pointing, but I still had hope that appeals from national conferences would be effective. I refused to believe that the Roman authorities would really hold to their position. But they have.

It feels funny to criticize the Holy See, although I will do so very strongly on this point. The funny feeling is that I’m on their side. I’m the one who supports singing the Mass, singing the dialogues and responses, singing the orations. I’m the one who supports chant, in Latin or English. I’m a liturgical traditionalist, and I follow the ideals of the Roman documents. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship is now thwarting those very ideals.

Legalistic? Overly centralized? Abusive of authority? Pharisaic? Idolatrous toward the 2002 Latin missal? Incoherent? Philistine? Incomprehensible? Idiotic? Take your pick. None of those seems strong enough to me.

This is bad, very bad.


  1. Two thoughts: First, many are used to working with liturgical books already full of pencil marks. Right or wrong, like it or not, inclusive language changes get penciled in. (Classier outfits I’ve seen print out the changes they want on the computer, in the same font, and paste them in.) So priests will just have to pencil in the changes they want. Maybe the big three will put out guide books by individual authors indicating how each prayer should be pointed: unofficial publications of this sort aren’t quite so heavily regulated (usually).

    Second, without giving “them” any ideas — fully aware that Big Brother is, in fact, both watching and rewriting history as we speak — I suspect they’ll be taking away the preface tones, maybe even the Exsultet chant, because the English pointing of these does not exactly correspond to the notation of the Latin.

    1. Many of the prefaces in the Latin Missal don’t even have notation. Does this mean that the corresponding prefaces in the English translation can’t have notation?

      This really is madness.

  2. Colons – I don’t believe I’m familiar with this. Can you say more about this, describing what it looked like, how it worked, for which prayers, and in which older books, Latin or English? I’d be appreciative.

    1. Here’s my attempt at a link to the 1962 Missal, which I understand to be the last to use the system. Missal.

      When you look at the orations in the proper you’ll see that they are notated with the colons (so are the readings and chants, for that matter, indicating it probably aided in reciting or singing them). The style used is called “per cola et commata,” which (from what I can tell) initially was a means for ensuring that whole phrases would be recited correctly (i.e., the reader would not break in the wrong place).

      I have seen the notation of a colon used for both psalms and orations in the Baronius Press version of the Little Office of the BVM. For the former, it functions like we often see asterisks used today for pointing the psalms.

      For the latter, the simple collect tone is presented on page 161 (oddly, with different punctuation than the text on pg. 69-70. There, the use of the colon mirrors the use of the asterisk from the 1966 Missal you cited above. Commas (at least in the example given, probably only for semi-major clauses) and periods function like the C to A in the 1966 Missal.

      From what I understand, the 1970 and succeeding Missals dropped this practice (I suppose in favor of a line by line structure). What was lost appears to be knowing precisely on which line the mediant is located.

      I would welcome corrections from anyone more knowledgeable.

      1. What am I missing? When I look at page 82 of the PDF, First Sunday of Advent, the collect “Excita, quaesumus…” has no colons or any marks that I see.

      2. OK, my mistake. I was looking for a dash for some reason. Now I see the colons. This is very interesting. It would give you mediant for solemn tone. But for simpole tone you need both mediant and flex, so you’d have to work that out for yourself. They tell you where the text ‘cadences,’ but not which syllable to move on. Nor do they need to, for Latin accentuation is so regular that one can do it virtually by instinct, without even knowing the simple rules. Unlike English which can have accent on final syllable or earlier – so it’s safer to point it so the priest is more sure.

      3. My understanding is that a comma “can” be used to indicate a flex (though the trouble can sometimes be figuring out which comma).

        I think you’re right about the need for further accentuation in English, but even if this earlier system were allowed, I imagine that it would make singing the collects much easier (eliminating the biggest part of the guesswork).

        It’s my understanding, however, that this system of annotation is not used in the 2002 Missale Romanum (or the two previous editions). Do you (or does anyone else) know if this is the case? I would appreciate if anyone could inform me, especially as I can’t afford that book. 🙂

  3. +JMJ+

    Fr. Anthony, this is ridiculous. 🙁 I’m with you on this one — this is a poor decision that reflects badly on the CDWDS. Was this decision passed down to individual conferences or bishops or as a general rule? Can we see it?

    (And why isn’t the third edition of the Latin text pointed?)

    Cody, having priests (or someone else) to go through and mark up every oration in the Missal sounds like a penance.

    1. I agree – this seems like a very bad idea. The wide-scale death of sung liturgy is perhaps the greatest impoverishment to liturgical life after Vatican II. Everything should be done to make the English Missal easier to chant so as to restore this wonderful practice and make it truly normative (in real life rather than on paper).

  4. While fully supporting the protest against yet another CDWDS idiocy (are they actually TRYING to sabotage the new missal?), I’d nevertheless enter a caveat against encouraging priests to sing the orations and the prefaces.

    If those prayers are well written (eg second half of Preface in Easter IV in the present missal, ‘in Him a new age has dawned … ), there’s a music in the English spoken word, and a distinctiveness in the content, which the use of a relatively uniform preface or oration tone time after timelevels out. Moreover, VERY few priests are competent enough to sing those tones without it coming out as boring and monotonous.

    Much though I deplore MR3 and all associated works and pomps, I nevertheless welcome a recognition that a style of music that may have worked for syllabically-rhythmed Latin (and in microphoneless churches would have enabled the sound to carry) is really not appropriate for good English liturgy, where the rhythm is carried by stresses, today.

    1. I guess since I’ve been worshipping in a parish that has had chanted vernacular orations for decades, I am missing out on why that is inferior to having them spoken. English is quite beautiful cantillated.

      And cantillation certainly cures the most common proclamation problem with the orations: which is to speak them in a conversational tone, and a conversational speed (a problem that is encouraged by the use of amplifciation).

    2. I strongly disagree that “VERY few” priests can carry off the chants. Genuine tone deafness is probably about as rare as color-blindness, and unless a priest is tone-deaf he can do just fine. This is chant, not opera.

    3. Most priests will sing the “per ipsum” and “mystery of faith” intro, even if they never sing anything else. Judging by these pieces of music, I would say that I’ve never encountered a priest whose singing was so bad they were better off never singing at all.

      English liturgy sounds absolutely beautiful chanted, even when the person chanting isn’t that great a singer.

      1. Jack,

        Such priests whose singing is so bad that they should never sing at all do exist. We had one once, and it was quite horrible. Couldn’t stay in key for two notes straight, and he tried to sing EVERYTHING he could get away with. After just a few exposures, I’d rearrange my weekend to avoid attending his Masses.

        Really, it was quite horrible. Simply attending Mass should not be a penance. Doesn’t fit the theology, for starters.

      2. I don’t doubt that some can’t sing, but I would argue they are a minority (hence why I said I’ve never encountered any such priests myself, or perhaps I just have low standards for what is acceptable singing 🙂 ). Most people can probably pull off a monotone chant with a bit of practice.

        I would argue that far far more priests could sing their part than currently do.

        Out of curiosity – does anyone know if seminaries actually teach priests to sing their part?

  5. This is terrible!

    I wonder if some “decorative” solution could be found to work around this ridiculous micromanaging. I know the Psalm tones are printed in the St John’s Bible and look like flourishes. Psalm volume of the St John’s Bible for the uninitiated!

    I don’t know how much freedom publishers have on the missal (clearly, not very much!). Could there be “decorative” flourishes that just happen to coincide with the proper syllables, or is this (also) forbidden?

    Is this to ensure that only Latin liturgies can be sung, or is it about precedent? I love sung liturgy!

  6. But all the extra ink would have made the missals that much heavier. Honestly, Fr. Anthony, you can’t have it both ways!


  7. This is so depressing… I fight, fight, fight from my little corner of the world to try to promote a sung liturgy, emphasis on singing the Mass itself rather than just singing at Mass, which the Church clearly intends. It’s the one point that many of us, progressive or traditional, agree. Yet when it comes to implementing this practically, the Church, at almost every level, puts up huge roadblocks. Why, why, why??

  8. “The funny feeling is that I’m on their side.”

    Are you sure about that? I mean to suggest that perhaps the bureaucracy is not on the side of good liturgy. When it comes to good liturgy, I wouldn’t want to be on their side, from what I’ve seen over the past decade.

  9. Penance is good, though, right?
    Pointing the texts for myself might help me better understand how they work, maybe? Of course, how I do it and how my two well-retired assistants (not to mention occasional visitors and missionaries) will cope, I cannot say or vouch for.

  10. So very disheartening…I am very unhappy about this development.

    I’ll second the question “Why isn’t the Latin edition pointed?”

    I’ll also multiply the comment that the VAST majority of priests are capable of chanting the English orations, and of doing so quite well. English is no more or less beautiful than Latin when sung, it is simply different.

  11. I followed Jeffrey Tucker’s link above and watched/listened to the video for Eucharistic Prayer I (Solemn Tone), plus sampling a few others. Perhaps someone can tell me how this approach might be improved upon (or why it is inadequate).

    Assuming that the English translation of MR 3 looks like this and that I have a choice between a Mass sung like this and one in Latin (my usual preference heretofore, though at the present time I am attending a very reverent OF Mass daily) I likely or at least frequently will choose the sung Mass in English. It seems to me that, at the very least, these videos suffice to show that the new English translation is eminently chant/singable (contrary to some reports), and promise that a wonderful flowering of the liturgy in English is at hand, even if it will require some work by priests with little liturgical formation. Realizing that some cases will require waiting until they are replaced by ones who are adequately prepared (this being the reality that recent decades have left us with).

    1. : “Perhaps someone can tell me how this approach might be improved upon (or why it is inadequate).

      Many priests lack either Internet literacy or broadband access altogether. I’m thinking of some Oblate missionaries I know in the Philippines, as well as aging priests here in the states, or those in rural parishes.

      Also, as a point of practicality, it means that the presider has to commit the shifts to memory. (Or mark them up in pencil.) And as someone who annually hears the Exsultet proclaimed inaccurately—even after giving a recording to the deacon to practice with—I’ve found that some people don’t always learn very well by ear alone.

      1. How long did your deacon spend practicing the exsultet? To really know it in your bones might take 5 hours per year over 5 years time. Some deacons are more inclined to spend 5 minutes learning it just 5 hours before the vigil.

    2. As a practical matter, it’s infinitely more useful to have pointings in the actual book used by the celebrant. Tutorials don’t replace that; at best, they are a partial supplement for training.

  12. With the current Mass (English trans) I find myself sadly guessing at where to change pitch during those times I do chant the orations. Even having studied some chant and being a bit of a vocalist/cantor myself, I first take the time to study over the collect and figure out in my own amateur way where to change pitch. But then, even that preparation doesn’t ensure that I’ll chant the collect the same way in the Mass itself!

    Pointing would have been helpful.

    On a related note, at this week’s Sunday Mass I chanted the Kyrie and the assembly responded with enthusiasm and beauty. People do respond and can do so with beauty – even the Stanford fans in the pews!

  13. Of course, I realize I’ve served up a softball, the discussion here being about pointing the orations but, even so ….. I don’t really understand all the complaints. Most priests in OF parishes I attend do an adequate job of chanting even the current (uncorrected) translations of the orations.

  14. Silver lining- at least this seems to irritate our American trait of repugnance towards an obvious, idiotic lack of common sense; and we present, at long last, a united front.
    AWR, could you amplifiy the oxymoronic “reason” employed presumably by the SCDW that “it deviates from the 2002 Latin Roman Missal?” There has to be more to that obvious declaration! Like, duh, heck yeah it’s differ’nt than the Latin.
    I’m with Liam on this point: cantillation of the collects and orations by the celebrant, proficiency notwithstanding, is the most significant sign (and a powerful evangelical sign it is) that you are in the midst of, and hearing/enjoining a Roman Catholic liturgy.
    So, “they” envision MR3 as a word and song service now?
    I wouldn’t be surprised if even Bugnini was spinning after hearing this logic.

    PS. I suppose one could infer that improvisation of the cantillated texts falls outside of this jurisdiction by omission. So, we could get great scat singers like Kurt Elling, Bobby McFerrin and Jon Hendriks to give workshops. Hardy har har.

  15. Obviously I’m in another world here; and of course I have no difficulty with more or less anyone singing the per ipsum (I actually trained all my co-novices, bar one stubborn exception, to do it).
    But what message are we sending when we use exactly the same tone, whatever the season and content, for the Prefaces? A part of the Mass which is clearly meant to express the particular characteristic of the feast is made to sound the same, whatever the mood.

    1. Different words don’t sound the same when sung to the same cantillated tone. That’s the nature of cantillation; it’s not melodic in the modern conventional sense, so it allows the varying texts to carry different inflection points. I am sensitive to this issue because I am in a choir that heavily employs vernacular plainsong tones (courtesy of Theodore Marier), and the varying effects using the same treasury of tones is remarkable.

      I remain rather mystified by your earlier contention.

    2. The 1962 missal has two chant forms for prefaces, solemn and simple. I’ve learned the solemn form, but have a hard time oddly enough for the simple. The current OF missal only has one style of written notes for the prefaces. These are rather easy to sing and if a priest can pull it off, he should at Sunday Masses that are sung, no matter the season or solemnity. But I do agree if a priest is tone deaf and simply cannot sing, he should limit himself and at least learn the “Through Him…” In terms of the other orations in the current OF missal, I think hearing them sung helps to learn how to sing them. I prefer that I have flexibility in “doing it my way” since there are no demarcations note wise for these. Most of us priests I think sing by “ear” rather than notes. Some of us can even wing it with the prefaces, but I’m not advising this.

      1. Don’t forget the “More Solemn” Tones for the Prefaces in the Appendix for the 1962 Missal. So there are 3 forms.

  16. Fr. Endean – if I may; I would agree that the key point is too many times what we in the pew hear is a monotonous, poorly chanted oration or we hear the same chant with little inflection, rythym, etc.

    Depending upon the voice range and a church’s acoustic system, listening to some chant is off putting and painful. Some voices are in a higher range so that it makes it difficult to understand the oration and its words.
    So, if we are trying to “improve” the poetic, reverent flow of “better” prayers, chanting by some will only obfuscate the goal and participation.

    This is not meant as a general prohibition; rather, individual priests need to practice and determine when and how best to procleim/chant orations. A blanket – you MUST always – does not fit well.

  17. I can understand being unhappy with this, but I don’t know why so many people here seem so surprised. This decision is consistent with the approach to the Latin text that we have been hearing from Rome now for years. Think in a suitably fundamentalist manner about the Missal, and you will see at once why the prayers in the English missal can’t be pointed. IT’S NOT IN THE LATIN. You need ask no further questions. The book is the focus of protection, not “good liturgy” or some other amorphous concept.

    I guess there has been some wishful thinking going on, among people of good intentions, Anthony and others, and those wishes have been disappointed. But I am confident that it doesn’t matter. The people who are unhappy with this today will swallow it tomorrow. What else can they do? There’s nothing to be done. They’ve got you over a barrel. “It’s inevitable. Get used to it.” That’s what we’ve been hearing now for a long time. How is this any different? It isn’t.

    Or is it? Is it somehow worse, or the last straw, or the turn of the tide or something? I’m curious as to how people feel about it. But I bet it doesn’t change anything.

    1. I do agree that a magical view of Latin as specially protective of the Faith is n obstacle, not an assets. (There are other reasons to value Latin and a fiathful if not slavish approach to translation, but the magical thinking about language does need further scrubbing out of our assumptions as Catholics.)

  18. It’s certain how we “in the biz” feel about it, Rita, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise. How will John and Mary Pip feel? Well those in my parish would notice and lament the absence of cantillated orations. But I am comforted by the wisdom of your projection: it won’t change anything. New generations of celebrants are already in the fold of ars celebrandi.

    1. Does God really care what language we pray in? What musical forms we use to pray? What posture we assume while doing it? What clothing we’re wearing just then?

      Or maybe the state of our hearts and souls is just a tad more significant. . .

      Ship’s sinking, but dang! the deck chairs are all neatly aligned in perfect row.

  19. Jack Wayne – it depends upon the seminary but the majority barely have more than 2-3 liturgy courses required in the standard MDiv program – if that. Most do not have any presidential/presider liturgy preparation beyond a dean of men or various faculty members being assigned to walk through the liturgy with candidates to the priesthood.

    There is little preparation much less course work/grading around sacramental, eucharistic leadership (think Fr. Anthony called it “ars celebrandi”) and chant/singing is not part of it. It falls to whether the candidate has a personal interest, etc.

    Add in the fact that theologate’s focus more on homily preparation (that also is weak); or leave it to a deaconate internship at a nearby parish and potentially a pastor/associate pastor who would actually mentor or say something in terms of “ars celebrandi”.

    If Fr. Anthony put together 50 questions from 20 of the blogs this past 4 months on big name liturgical topics – Summorum Pontificum; Bishop Taylor’s book on ICEL; SC and any liturgical/musical documents in the 1960/1970s; Liturgican Authenticam, etc. – doubt that most 3rd/4th year students would even make a passing grade (LA may be the exception).

    1. I appreciate and accept this general characterization of seminary formation. I would suggest, however, that forming future generations of priests (and church music directors) is going to have to begin much earlier than college or the theologate. If the “ars celebrandi” is the capacity to live and receive the mysteries celebrated in the sacred rites, as Pope John Paul II described it, this capacity requires time…years…becoming imbued with the ethos, content and language of the rites in an environment of best practicies. Choir schools, anyone?

      Similarly, college and university church music programs find it difficult to square their business of knowledge acquisition with the Church’s need of skill and the spiritual capacity for radical receptivity in its leaders. The grown up version of the choir school, the Institute of Sacred Music or Schola Cantorum, is what is lacking, at least in the US. While the resources of universities and seminaries might be helpful, the time is ripe IMHO for a diocese, or perhaps a region, to think structurally about how a Church-directed Schola Cantorum could bring together those resources for the good of the Church and its leaders.

    2. A 1974 study of seminary education in liturgy, conducted by CARA (74% response rate) showed that 60% of seminaries in the United States did not offer liturgy as a major course of study in their curriculum. 62% of faculty who taught liturgy did so part-time. Seminary education in preaching, music, and the arts was poor.

      A survey taken in 1995 by the FDLC showed that 17% offered either no courses in liturgy, a non-credit course, or a single course. 49% offered a course either every year, or three out of four years. The rest were in between. Although the comparison between 1974 and 1995 shows some improvement, the situation is still not nearly what Sacrosanctum Concilium 16 directed–that liturgy should be a major course of study.

      I’m not aware of any more recent surveys or studies, but I doubt there has been a big step up from 1995. David is right. Much more work needs to be done to bring ALL seminaries up to speed on liturgy, music, preaching, and the arts.

      Kevin Vogt’s point is also well taken.

  20. Well, in at least some of the current Sacramentaries that have the musical appendix there are multiple choices for tone for the orations. The pointing would not be identical for each tone. If that were the reason for no pointing, that would be find with me, but “because it is not in the Latin” is foolishness, IMHO.

    In the larger picture, I think that Pharisaic is the wrong adjective for the folks in power these days. Sadducean would be better. Given that most Jewish practice today is primarily descended from the Pharisees rather than the Sadducees, what might that say about the current path of the folks in power over time? (This is not a happy thought, but it keeps recurring to me à la “history repeats itself because no one listens the first time.”)

  21. “Legalistic? Overly centralized? Abusive of authority? Pharisaic? Idolatrous toward the 2002 Latin missal? Incoherent? Philistine? Incomprehensible? Idiotic? Take your pick. None of those seems strong enough to me.”

    All of the above, but even combined it doesn’t seem to cover the ground. How about ‘moronic’? Eh, still leaves gaps. Even the impolite terms don’t quite do it. ‘Insane’ might come close, but that would imply a lack of ability to think rationally. Although, come to think, there might be something to that.

    The only cause being served here is that of the ego[s] of the entities that claim the power to dictate all of this garbage. It’s certainly not going to do anything good for the quality of our liturgies.

    Break out the writing implements and get to marking. They can ban that all they want, but only a fool gives an unenforceable order.

  22. I share completely the disappointment that every one has about not including the pointing.. because those priests who do sing, this would have been a great resource and help to them.

    However.. whether the pointing is included or not, I do not share the optimism that many have had, that if this were included, it would have encouraged more priests to sing. Until some basic vocal pedagogy and vocal skill building takes place in seminaries and in diocesan programs for priests, singing is not going to be the norm for them. I know many priests, who actually have rather OK singing voices, who just downright refuse to sing.. so much of this is psychological. So many just will not sing… personally while there might be a handful of priests who may take the “leap” to begin chanting the orations and dialogues… I believe they are in a minority. I have the same skepticism in terms of how a majority of presiders will encounter the presidential texts in the new missal… the kind of real reflection and practice, which includes committing some real time to dig deep into the texts and pray over them, and work on nuance, etc… I guess I just am not terribly optimistic. I do not know what happens in most seminary courses in terms of presidential skills, and looking pastorally at the texts in which they have to pray… but the results in recent years in experiencing presiders who taken this kind of care.. well, it is not blowing me away. Sorry to be so pessimistic.

  23. It would be a great thing for the praying church, I believe, if along with their concern that the faithful become comfortable with the new translation… the bishops would either require or give tremendous priority to providing educational and formational opportunities for our priests to really do the deep work that is required to embrace, pray and embody the prayers that according to the GIRM, they pray in our name…. a one day workshop will not do it.. a developed program for them to grow and become integrated to the missal is required, in my opinion. I do not see any real sustained efforts being talked about from bishops to do this. Again, a one day in-service will not provide what is needed. These new words which are at heart of so much of our concern, well, the real positive implementation lies at the feet of our parish priests.. how are we helping them?

  24. David – excellent summary and recommendations. If I may expand, bishops and priest councils need to insist upon actual 3rd/4th year ars celebrandi training in theologates with a mentor/teacher who is an expert in liturgy, presentation skills, etc.

    In addition, bishops need to host an annual ars celebrandi workshop that is mandatory with regional/area liturgical directors who are comfortable working with indiviudal priests using video, etc. This could be supported by an expert in chant, music, etc.

    On-going education should be paid/supported by dioceses so that a required ars celebrandi course every 3 years is mandated.

    Finally, it would be so helpful if bishops made liturgy, celebration style, homiletics, etc. a priority vs. just administrative skills.

  25. Why don’t priests sing?

    When I have asked the question (congratulating a priest on a sung EP and suggesting he should do it more often) the answer has always been some version of “progressive solemnity.” It is possible that this is just an excuse, but until liturgists rethink that whole idea, it will continue to be used to justify mediocrity during much of the liturgical year (by musicians as well as priests).

    It is possible that priests may be uncomfortable with “performing” and be unwilling to admit it to themselves and others. A lot of the “folksy” behavior that I see in presiding and giving the homily seems defensive, i.e. priests are trying to be comfortable with an uncomfortable situation. Perhaps they need confidence building training (learning to sing well might be a reliable way to improve their confidence and get them to prefer singing).

    The local parish that always has a sung EP never sings the orations or prefaces. I prefer the sung EP to the situation where the orations and preface are sung but the EP is not. The easiest way to solemnize all Masses would be to teach priests how to sing one or two EPs. Developing training materials and personnel to do this at the diocesan level should be relatively easy. Confidence in singing the EP should help in tackling the prefaces and prayers.

    The bishop mainly needs to get the idea across that all Weekend Masses have to be solemn, although some may be a little more solemn than others.

  26. Last weekend, we had the privilege of having J.C. and Mary Lou Cantrell at our parish to address the music ministers in two sessions. One was directed specifically to cantors , and the other to the choir at large.
    One thing J.C. pointed out was that few people will bring complaints directly to the liturgical/music director, and complaints mean that you have passed the comfort level of the commentator- and that might cause discomfort, but discomfort is necessary for growth.
    We all have to admit that this new translation has caused many to pass the comfort level we have had with the current translation we’ve been working with for 37 years. But, this discomfort with these changes are necessary for our growth.
    At our conference last weekend, Liturgical Press offered resources to us for purchase at a significant discount. One such resource I bought was the excellent book by Keith Pecklers, The Genius of the Roman Rite: On the Reception and Implementation of the New Missal. From skimming through the book, I can tell that Fr. Pecklers has done an excellent job at outlining the historical development of the new translation and explaining why the new translation is necessary. We should all understand the new translation is very much rooted in the Roman Rite.

  27. Jack Raskosky said:
    Why don’t priests sing?

    When I have asked the question (congratulating a priest on a sung EP and suggesting he should do it more often) the answer has always been some version of “progressive solemnity.” It is possible that this is just an excuse, but until liturgists rethink that whole idea, it will continue to be used to justify mediocrity during much of the liturgical year (by musicians as well as priests).

    It is possible that priests may be uncomfortable with “performing” and be unwilling to admit it to themselves and others. A lot of the “folksy” behavior that I see in presiding and giving the homily seems defensive, i.e. priests are trying to be comfortable with an uncomfortable situation. Perhaps they need confidence building training (learning to sing well might be a reliable way to improve their confidence and get them to prefer singing).

    The local parish that always has a sung EP never sings the orations or prefaces. I prefer the sung EP to the situation where the orations and preface are sung but the EP is not. The easiest way to solemnize all Masses would be to teach priests how to sing one or two EPs. Developing training materials and personnel to do this at the diocesan level should be relatively easy. Confidence in singing the EP should help in tackling the prefaces and prayers.
    Read (STL) Sing to the Lord, USCCB, 2007, and you will understand why we sing,and that we don’t sing AT Mass, we sing THE Mass.

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