Instruments during the Triduum?

The recent Pastoral Letter on Sacred Music in Divine Worship, “Sing to the Lord a New Song”, promulgated in the Archdiocese of Portland, OR, on January 25, 2019, by Archbishop Alexander Sample, contains a statement in Guidelines section 2g, subsection 3]  which may cause a few raised eyebrows:

During Lent the use of the organ and other instruments is allowed only as necessary to support singing. After the Gloria of Holy Thursday until the Gloria of the Easter Vigil, all music is exclusively vocal. If observance of this discipline presents grave difficulties, an instrument may be used, but only in a minimal way to support the voices.

I want to preface my commentary by saying that the first sentence of that subsection is more restrictive than what is provided by the current state of the law, expressed in GIRM 313:

In Lent the playing of the organ and musical instruments is allowed only in order to support the singing. Exceptions, however, are Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent), Solemnities, and Feasts.

Evidently in the Archdiocese of Portland those exceptions are excluded, despite the fact that in the universal Church they have been permitted from at least the year 1673 onward (continual legislation by the Sacred Congregation of Rites).

The main purpose of this essay, however, is to focus on the Archbishop’s second and third sentences, in which he seems to go much further than the current provisions of the law.

Some have attempted to argue, even on Pray Tell, that the law’s provisions relating to Advent and Lent do not hold for the Sacred Triduum because the Triduum does not form part of Lent. (In passing, one might note that the vast majority of Catholics would be surprised to learn that the Triduum does not form part of Lent; for them, Holy Thursday and Good Friday especially appear as the climax of Lenten discipline.) It seems clear from the latest edition of the Roman Missal that this argument is open to question, as follows:

On Holy Thursday, the rubric concerning the Gloria runs:

7. The Gloria in excelsis (Glory to God in the highest) is said. While the hymn is being sung, bells are rung, and when it is finished, they remain silent until the Gloria in excelsis of the Easter Vigil, unless, if appropriate, the Diocesan Bishop has decided otherwise. Likewise, during this same period, the organ and other musical instruments may be used only so as to support the singing.

It is clear that the Diocesan Bishop can, if appropriate, legislate on whether not bells are used between the two Glorias. (And one might wonder what the criteria for an “appropriate” decision might be.)

What is by no means as clear is whether he may do the same for the use of organ and other instruments. The final sentence begins with the word “Likewise”. In the Latin the word used is Item, meaning “Also” or “In the same manner”. A “normal” reading of this word would therefore interpret it to mean “Similarly” or “In the same way [that bells are silent]”. A “perverse” reading of the word would interpret it to mean “Similarly, i.e. unless, if appropriate, the Diocesan Bishop has decided otherwise”. I think it is fair to call it “perverse” because, as it stands, this sentence does not appear to give the Diocesan Bishop explicit authority to legislate for the instruments. That explicit authority is given only for the bells. A principle of Canon Law is that where there may be more than one interpretation of the law, the least restrictive interpretation is to be favoured. I am aware of the dictum that a bishop is the Chief Liturgist of his diocese, but that designation does not of itself give him the right to act in contradiction with universal church law, or with decisions that have been made by the episcopal conference of the territory. It is worth noting, too, that the Pastoral Letter only applies within the Archdiocese and not outside.

If you want to find evidence of a different viewpoint on accompanied music, as far back as 1970 the Bishops of England and Wales published a document entitled Music in the Mass, whose paragraph 37 states very clearly “The organ may be used to lead the singing at any time, even on Good Friday.

So far, then, it would seem that Archbishop Sample’s statement “After the Gloria of Holy Thursday until the Gloria of the Easter Vigil, all music is exclusively vocal” is questionable at the very least, if not in fact contrary to current legislation. Furthermore, it seems that he himself realizes that it may at the least be problematical when he says “If observance of this discipline presents grave difficulties, an instrument may be used, but only in a minimal way to support the voices.”

I suspect that some will consider that final sentence to be more than a little patronising. I would like to explore a little further what those “grave difficulties” might be.

Up to the mid 1960s, it was very easy to specify that during the Triduum the organ and other instruments were to be totally silent. Many places were accustomed to singing unaccompanied; liturgical singing was done by clergy and choir alone. Homophony and polyphony were done a cappella, and Gregorian chant likewise (although more than a few parishes used the organ as a support for the chant, and continuo playing for some polyphony was also possible). It was not much of a stretch to specify “exclusively vocal” music during the Triduum.

Today, over 50 years later, the situation is very different. Many parishes have repertoires that rely on instrumental accompaniment. To remove that accompaniment has only one effect: the music no longer makes sense. To quote just two examples, it is difficult to imagine Good Friday without Peter Jones’s superb setting of the Reproaches O My People. If sung without any accompaniment, whether organ or guitars, its effect is nullified. Even more difficult to imagine is a piece like Stephen Dean’s sublime Father, If This Cup, (published in OCP’s Easter Mysteries, a St Thomas More Group collection), where the piece simply makes no sense when sung a cappella.

In parishes where piano and/or guitar is the normal instrument of accompaniment, the problem is exacerbated still further if accompaniment is removed. Does the fact that the music makes no sense without accompaniment constitute a “grave difficulty” ?

One answer that the Archbishop and his advisers may give to this is “Well, why don’t you just use unaccompanied chants instead?” One simple response might be “because the people don’t know them, have little or no opportunity to learn them, would find them alien and unfulfilling even if they did learn them, and will thus be excluded from this aspect of the celebration.” And yet paragraph 2 of the Roman Missal’s global preliminary rubrics for the Sacred Paschal Triduum is quite clear:

The singing of the people, the ministers, and the Priest Celebrant has a special importance in the celebrations of these days, for when texts are sung, they have their proper impact.

Today we have a very different style of liturgy from the one which existed formerly. Before the mid 1960s, singing was generally the province of the clergy and the choir. The people sang only devotional material. Their liturgical participation was passive. Today, the situation is different. Singing is open to all, depending on their office and function, and the active participation of the people through singing is to be encouraged (Sacrosanctum Concilium 30).

The question, therefore, is not one of musical style or whether or not the music is accompanied, both of which are aesthetic values, but about whether the singing of people, priest and ministers is to be not just enabled but actively encouraged, which is a pastoral value. In other words, the context in which celebration normally takes place is crucial when considering the impact of liturgical legislation.

Additionally, in parishes where significant proportions of the assembly are “non white” (around 50% in the Archdiocese of Portland), it is safe to say that the singing of the assembly will never include those former styles that the Archbishop appears to wish to impose. That former tradition of unaccompanied singing is dead or has never existed in many places. You cannot just switch it on and presume that good liturgy will automatically result.

In case all the above seems negative, I would want to say that there are other ways of delineating the special character of the days of the Triduum without having to have recourse to a cappella singing. A careful selection of texts and music, whether accompanied or not, will provide a Triduum repertoire that speaks to the liturgical season, is appropriately “grave” in nature, and lifts up hearts and minds to God. The appearance of the church, its liturgical environment, the absence of festive signs and movements will also greatly assist in creating the desired solemn atmosphere.


  1. It seems Abp Sample may also have neglected to consult the 1988 circular letter on the preparation and celebration of the paschal feasts (if so, he would hardly have been the first to do so), which the GIRM tracks in this regard, but in a document specially devoted to the liturgies of Holy Week and the Triduum. No. 50:

    50. During the singing of the hymn “Gloria in excelsis” [at the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper] in accordance with local custom, the bells may be rung, and should thereafter remain silent until the “Gloria in excelsis” of the Easter Vigil, unless the Conference of Bishops’ or the local Ordinary, for a suitable reason, has decided otherwise.[56] During this same period the organ and other musical instruments may be used only for the purpose of supporting the singing.[57]

    1. Likewise [sic!], those who compiled Archbishop Sample’s lengthy Archdiocesan Liturgical Handbook, available on the archdiocesan website, do not appear to be aware of the existence of the Directory on Masses with Children.

  2. Why is it a problem to “impose” things like Gregorian chant, but not a problem to “impose” the sort of music the author of this piece fancies?

    1. I really don’t think you know what sort of music I fancy.

      One of the most formative experiences of my life was working in a Los Angeles parish in the early 1990s and being tasked with moving it from having three separate celebrations of the Easter Triduum (English, Spanish, Vietnamese) to a single tri-lingual Easter Triduum. In that kind of pastoral situation, it was necessary to sacrifice many of my own personal preferences for the good of the wider community. If I had imposed my own tastes, whatever they happened to be, it is quite certain that it simply wouldn’t have worked. You have to start where people are.

      1. Except in this case, it is hardly individual taste but what the Church itself has always called for – that Gregorian chant be given “pride of place.” The mere existence of other options that might potentially work or, indeed, that certain parishioners might “prefer” is ultimately irrelevant. Mass is not anthropocentric.
        If parishioners don’t consider chant and polyphony to be part of what they consider the Catholic Church, then they have an incomplete understanding of said Church; they are literally denying an aspect of it that hordes of clergy have deemed to be absolutely central.
        Perhaps Archbishop Sample prefers Mass VI over Mass VII from a personal point of view. If he sought to ban one and enforce exclusive singing of the other, that would indeed be imposing his personal preferences. But when he defends the Church’s treasury of sacred music which is of utmost integrality to the Mass, he only defends the Church itself. Sure, don’t call that a pastoral reality – but he calls for an ideal, a truly Catholic ideal, and I think that’s commendable.

      2. But Roman Catholic church teaching on liturgical music is very broad and diverse, has various strands and schools of thought within it (sometimes within the same document), and puts forth many ideals that do not necessarily cohere readily. Archbishop Sample has cherry-picked those statements in church documents that fit his ideal and one school of thought. Yes, everything he cites is found in church documents. No, it’s not ‘faithful’ to everything the church teaches. It is one-sided.

      3. Jeremy Tingle: “pride of place” all other things being equal. The thing is, frequently they aren’t.

  3. I was referring to the idea that “imposition” is only a bad thing when it refers to the Church’s liturgical patrimony, whereas when it refers to anything contemporary/progressive, it’s somehow not a problem.

  4. The non-mention of Laetare Sunday is indeed odd – maybe the author assumes that musicians will already know about this exception in the rubrics.

    In general, though, the pastoral letter vs. the GIRM doesn’t seem to me like an actual contradiction; rather it is putting the emphasis on a different side of the same policy. Rather than saying “organ and instruments are allowed to support singing during the Triduum” FIRST, Sample says first that it would be preferable not to have those – but then immediately adds that they can be used when needed. If anything, I see this section simply as an exhortation for musicians to truly think about the necessity of instruments before using them during the Triduum. Rather than just a “business as usual” approach that continues to accompany singing because it’s not banned.

    Speaking as someone who has dialed back accompaniment during the Triduum (but still not entirely removed it), this seems like a valuable exhortation to reflection. Regardless, nothing is banned in this section of the pastoral letter; either instruments themselves or specific repertoires. I see the Laetare Sunday/Solemnities omission simply as a lack of mention of exceptions, not an actual contradiction of current rubrics.

  5. I would also push back on Paul’s comment that unaccompanied singing necessarily excludes most congregations. That may certainly be true in some places, but it has not been my experience (at daily mass, for example, we very often sing something a cappella with just the priest starting it out). When a song is well-known and especially when there is musical leadership in the form of choir or cantor, congregational a cappella singing often is very successful in my experience. And if it is true in a particular place, then, yes, that would constitute a grave need for accompaniment – which the pastoral letter allows for.

      1. But, there are many options for Triduum repertoire. We are in danger of dealing with a truism here: “music that doesn’t work for a cappella congregational singing doesn’t work for a capella congregational singing”. Fair enough, but what about the music that does? Maybe that would be a better choice for these days. And those options that truly need accompaniment can still have it, even according to Sample’s strict emphasis on the a cappella ideal.

        I also think of it from a composer’s perspective. If the ideal is unaccompanied music in the Triduum, and I compose music specifically for the Triduum that absolutely requires accompaniment to function, then perhaps I have some responsibility as a composer when my music doesn’t fit the liturgy well (or at least, when musicians face a dilemma or tension when choosing my music).

      2. Yes, Todd has it right. I have no problem with unaccompanied singing, and in fact advocate it. But I am also familiar enough with what happens on the ground to know that a proportion of parishes exclusviely use music that simply doesn’t work unaccompanied. And during the Triduum, the important thing, it seems to me, is to ensure that the assembly is given its voice.

      3. Jared

        I encourage composers to compose music for congregational liturgical singing initially without assuming instrumental support – compose from and for the voice, not the keyboard or other – so that there’s a higher chance that the completed work might successfully be sung in situations where suitable instrumental support is not readily available.

      4. The thing is, if your assembly and musicians are accustomed to a diet of exclusively praise and worship music, for example, they are going to find it difficult to create a completely different kind of repertoire just for two days of the year. I am not, be it noted, saying that I advocate praise and worship music or even like it. I am saying that if you use nothing else, then doing something different will be a problem. The same will be generally true for many of our Hispanic congregations and musicians, and for others for whom the principal instrument of accompaniment is the guitar.

        It is of course possible to do something about this, but many will feel it is not worth the effort involved, and that doing something different will merely result in liturgies that feel unnatural and artificial.

  6. > “because the people don’t know them, have little or no opportunity to learn them, would find them alien and unfulfilling even if they did learn them, and will thus be excluded from this aspect of the celebration.”

    This seems to be an altogether too common way of responding to the use of traditional chant in the Liturgy. It starts by asserting that lack of knowledge is the problem. However, all reasonable implementations of chant indicate that the education of the parish is important. Start small, introduce more over time, that is, teach the parish, provide opportunities to learn. But the final concern is ultimately the key one: “they wouldn’t like it even if they knew it.” It’s this condescending, “I know what’s best” attitude that seems so problematic. It’s an attitude that claims to know better than the Church’s universal guidance and the insights of the local ordinary. It claims that the liturgical heritage of the Church is, all-of-a-sudden, inconsequential and foreign to Her members.

    Opinions like this end up being validated in practice because they are self-fulfilling prophecies. For decades, this thinking has stymied the education of parishioners and hidden Catholic heritage from whole generations. And now, decades on, it’s easy to turn around and say, “Look! No one knows it! Funny how that just happened.”

    1. Will, I specifically didn’t say “the wouldn’t like it even if they knew it”. I said they would find unaccompanied chants to be alien and unfulfilling, even if they were taught them. That is different. It’s not about liking or personal taste, it’s about acknowledging a reality. I have seen many instances in recent years of parishes where unaccompanied chant antiphons, whether in Latin or the vernacular, have been imposed upon assemblies who were simply not able to identify with them or make them their own. The proponents of chants have attempted to teach them these chants and have largely failed. It’s an idiom with which people are unfamiliar, and the frequent absence of any metre for them to use as a reference point especially causes problems for those whose usual diet is metred music of whatever style. You and I might wish that were not the case, but it is the reality.

      1. Unaccompanied singing does not have to mean plainchant or Gregorian chant. Unaccompanied singing means just that. Composers of music could write unaccompanied music that is not “chant (sic)” for the revised rites of Holy Week. Why don’t they? My fondest memories of Holy Week were singing with no organ and hearing no bells from one Gloria in excelsis to the other, and none of it was chant. Why is that now a bad thing and so hard to make happen?

        “Why is this night different from all other nights?” “This is the night…”

      2. “Alien and unfulfilling” still places the nexus of evaluation at the subjective response of the parishioners. The mechanisms you’ve indicated are “identify with”, “make their own”, “are unfamiliar with”. These mechanisms are what make the approach self-fulfilling. For decades, Catholics have had no opportunities to learn how to chant and have not had it used in our churches. Is it unsurprising that after this long neglect our musical heritage is foreign? If we subjectively evaluate based on how ‘fulfilling’ parishes find the music, we will continue in this neglect.

        Archbishop Sample’s letter seems to recognize a local opportunity for churches to learn and to more closely match the guidance of the Church with regards to liturgical music. I have no doubts that people will find it unfamiliar or unusual, but as with most things, it’s another opportunity for the Church to form Her members, teaching them with the depth of Her tradition.

      3. “For decades, Catholics have had no opportunities to learn how to chant and have not had it used in our churches. ”

        This is simply untrue. Many churches use Agnus XVIII, the 6F “Easter”Alleluia, simple hymns such as Adoro te devote, etc. But anything more complex than this (with the exception of the Missa de Angelis which is still used in some places) simply doesn’t fly.

      4. I appreciate the time you’ve taken to respond to my comments. I imagine the difference of opinion boils down to differences in experience. Growing up attending Mass at in a variety of diocese in the upper Midwest, I didn’t hear chant used as part of the liturgy until I left for college. The majority of music we sang was written in the 70s or later, metered, and accompanied with piano (and occasionally trap set). Even now, my experience has been that chant Mass settings or antiphons are few and far between, things that must be actively sought out, rather than the standard of practice in my diocese. My experience certainly is not universal, but at the very least, it appears Archbishop Sample’s letter is attempting to address this inconsistency as it occurs in his diocese.

  7. I have implemented unaccompanied Good Fridays at two parishes, with real success. It requires a strong choir and smart planning, though, and a willingness to exclude from the programming pieces that do not make musical sense without accompaniment. Some “fan favorites” do quite nicely, though. Were You There, of course, does well without a chorale harmonization underneath it, and Schutte’s Behold the Wood is kind of moving as an unaccompanied unison line. I have even used that refrain with chanted verses of the Crux Fidelis (in English) sung by the choir.

    If our liturgical music making has deviated from historic modes not only so far that a good deal of the specific texts and tunes have fallen away, but that we can’t dream of observing historic rubrics that dictate the barest bones of musical style, and demand what is really a very basic competence of singers, to sing unaccompanied, to hold a tune, as amateur, aging, undirected and unrehearsed daily Mass congregations frequently achieve with familiar hymns, what are we even doing? Or, to paraphrase an early edition of Notitiae, shocked at the spiralling of liturgical practice, “quo ducitis musicam liturgiae, ministri Dei?”

    1. I think you have answered your own question. “Historic rubrics” were designed for a significantly different kind of liturgy from the one we currently enjoy. They are indeed historic, but liturgical praxis has moved on.

      A criticism that has been levelled at the post-conciliar reforms is precisely that we have attempted to celebrate reformed rites in the same way that we celebrated the unreformed ones before the Council; and we have found that it doesn’t quite work.

      1. I think you are oversimplifying my point. More pointedly, if the divergence between say, East and West in liturgy is not merely that only the West allows instruments judiciously, but that unaccompanied liturgical song is an unattainable goal in a Latin parish for even a single liturgy, but a non-negotiable rule in the Byzantine East, how far divergent have we gone?

        I always liked that bit in Annus Qui, where Benedict XIV suggests that a good rule for liturgical music is that it should not be such as to lower the skill of the choir that sings it. I wonder if we haven’t been spoiling ourselves with over-accompaniment?

  8. Bishop Sample lost me right after he offered his “objective” opinions on what constitutes sanctity, beauty and universality. I consider some chant and polyphony to meet these ideals, but not all, and it is definitely not exclusive to that style of music and/or the organ. Once you get passed the eloquent verbiage used, the letter seemed as ridiculous to me as asserting that banjo, tambourine and yodeling should be the ideal we should all aspire to for mass…

  9. The pastoral letter reflects the Archbishop’s understanding of the theology, Christology, ecclesiology, and anthropology which inform the manner in which the whole church prays (sings) what it believes. He also seems entirely comfortable with the prerogatives of clerics one of which is that by virtue of their ordination they are imbued with an intellect superior to those of ordinary worshippers. What could lovers of Haugen, Haas, Joncas, Hurd, and other 20th century composers possible know and experience that trumps the traditional chants of old? First of all, parishes in the US were not accustomed to Gregorian chant other than that warbled at a requiem Mass by an organist with modest singing abilities. To suggest that the people’s experience of the work that is theirs (the liturgy) would be made more beautiful, reverent, even mystical is little more than a personal preference. The “traditional” Mass reinforces clerical privilege and authority. To call it more beautiful is to risk distorting the meaning of the word. There was nothing beautiful about the Lord’s supper with its puzzling and messy washing of the feet, nor at Calvary where the abandoned Master was left to suffer and and die with little company. I believe worship should animate and engage the assembly so that it can grasp more clearly that the One who is being worshipped died and rose again so that those freed from the bondage of sin can go forth to glorify God by the way they live their lives.

    1. Father,

      This seems to be going rather far afield from what is actually contained in the pastoral letter. It is the bishop’s prerogative to issue liturgical directives; and I don’t think we should assume that if/when a bishop does so he is implying that clerics are smarter than laypeople. Would your preferred alternate church scenario be for the laypeople to figure out everything for themselves, without any clerical interference? If offering musical ideals, rubrics, and general guidelines necessarily implies that clerics have magically superior intelligence, then the entire church hierarchy is also guilty, including the writers of Sacrosanctum Concilium, the GIRM, and Musicam Sacram! After all, we only have the post-conciliar liturgy because clerics decided to make liturgical changes and impose them on the laity.

      Also, none of the composers you mentioned are banned by the letter. To make better use of the church’s ideal repertoires does not mean that all other repertoire must be thrown out. Many, many music directors mix different styles and repertoires at Mass.

      And I’m puzzled by this: “First of all, parishes in the US were not accustomed to Gregorian chant other than that warbled at a requiem Mass by an organist with modest singing abilities.”

      So the logic would be “because something was done badly in many places in the past, therefore it must be inherently devoid of value or beauty”? If anything, to accept your sweeping generalization of the musical experience of an entire country and century as true implies, to me, that we don’t have a good perspective by which to judge the repertoire. If it was widely done, and done well, and still fell flat, that would be something else entirely.

      1. The idea that chant is the solution to all liturgical music conundra fails to recognize the symbolic value of chant to the many parishioners — and indeed, as pointed out above, entire contemporary/P&W parishes — who see it as a sign of the old authoritarian, pray-pay-and-obey church which they believe we have long progressed beyond. I experienced a response to this after playing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” in Advent: “THAT music does not belong in THIS church!”

  10. Lots of people missing the whole point of the Pastoral Letter. “I can’t imagine Good Friday Mass without an eighty-piece string orchestra playing Barber’s Adagio for Strings, so this is completely unrealistic! Shame on the Archbishop for speaking so patronizingly from his ivory tower!”
    If the repertoire you have programmed for the Triduum absolutely requires instrumental accompaniment as an integral part of its sound, then I submit to you it may not be in keeping with what is actually desirable for the Triduum. There is plenty of hymnody in four-part harmony and *gasp!* Gregorian chant that is easily accessible to pretty much any parish and fulfills the requirements; to claim that because the music you personally prefer is not permissible under these guidelines that the letter is unrealistic is a bit absurd. If I’m looking to hire a full Romantic-era orchestra and fifty professional singers to perform Bach’s Passions during Good Friday Mass, I shouldn’t complain and shout from the rooftops when Church authorities re-iterate what has been said so many times already; I always had the choice to program more appropriate repertoire. And, for the record, experiencing those Lutheran Passions is something I couldn’t imagine my own personal Good Friday experience lacking – but that still doesn’t mean it should be shoe-horned into Mass.
    It seems like too many people are stuck in their current ways and don’t want to be challenged. But the Church’s existence is a very challenge to us – to not settle for being merely human, but to be drawn to the Godly as well. Perhaps not every parish can pull off all five Graduale Romanum Propers (or polyphonic Propers) and all eighteen Gregorian Ordinaries in rotation, but that’s the ideal. I don’t think that the Archbishop should be shamed for reminding us of that, rather than letting us be perfectly content with whatever hodgepodge could potentially be assembled on a weekly basis.

    1. I agree with this–I probably would have said it quite differently.

      Church law is always (usually?) written as an ideal to which to aim, but slavish following was never the expectation. Of course the Archbishop missed that completely. No harm in reminding us, but I don’t think his letter didn’t go in that direction.

      What our archdiocesean Liturgy Office suggested, and thus what our parish did several years ago, was to make a conscious effort to replace a full choir on Good Friday with a cantor/leader of song and pianist. Besides getting us closer to the ideal, it also gave us the added benefit of giving the choir and musicians a break (and they could just worship at Good Friday as part of the assembly), and rehearsals could focus on other Triduum Liturgies. It has been extremely successful and I couldn’t imagine going back.

      Fortunately our bishop doesn’t micromanage song selection, style, instruments, etc. It was an office gently reminding us of an ideal, offer the reasons why, and then let each parish take the guidance and incorporate it, as best fits their community and its needs.

      1. Sadly, due to the commercialization of Catholic liturgical music (especially in the U.S.), among other factors, the “gentle reminders” the Church has sought extending back to Vatican II have proved completely insufficient. (How many people in good faith follow the “letter” of Vatican II rather than some concocted “spirit”?) That being said, I don’t see the letter doing much to explicitly legislate in the way some people seem to take it – there’s still the same looseness in the end that we see in the GIRM. Though it may end up being more restrictive in the terminology, and with a clear preference for traditionalism, he’s hardly forcing the outright removal of repertoire.

      2. I also have concerns about commercialization, and how best to form, teach, and educate people to bring out the best in them. That’s on ongoing task.

        I would have to defend, however, the “spirit of Vatican II” as something not “concocted,” but found in the documents themselves. Fr. John O’Malley SJ is, in my view, one of the very best commentators and writers on Vatican II. He shows how the spirit of Vatican II – a new mindset, a new creativity, a new way forward – is found in the documents themselves. The documents by their very nature call us to go beyond them if we really get what they are about. See this post:


    2. “I can’t imagine Good Friday Mass without an eighty-piece string orchestra playing Barber’s Adagio for Strings, so this is completely unrealistic! Shame on the Archbishop for speaking so patronizingly from his ivory tower!”

      Good Friday Mass?!

      1. I’m sure someone has thought of that, alongside the nonsensical programming of Requiem musical settings on Good Friday. My point is that the mere inclusion of a selection into one person’s personal spirituality does not mean that it should automatically be granted pride of place at the bargaining table.

  11. I did this practice in the most culturally diverse, largest parish (8000 registered families) in my diocese. It was marvelous. The congregation easily sang simple chants, even simple Propers at first hearing (with the cantor intoning each antiphon first). We had already taught and been singing the dialogues and order of Mass and had taught the congregation a couple a capella settings of the Ordinary (something every parish should do). Having completely sung unaccompanied liturgy during all of Lent and between Glorias was extremely prayerful. During Lent it was as though we were fasting from the organ. When the Gloria did come on Holy Thursday and the Easter Vigil it was even more glorious to hear the organ once again, especially if one adds a rousing tocatta-like improvised introduction before beginning the singing. It takes work but parishes can reach the level of sung liturgy with all her dialogues, Propers and sung prayer. While I understand that many parishes may use piano and guitar, I don’t think it can be argued that the organ is the best instrument to support assembly singing for both musical and acoustical reasons. Probably why it is called to have “pride of place” in Liturgical celebrations. Anyway I think I proved the practice of singing unaccompanied liturgy between the two Gloria’s can work within any culture as my parish had large Vietnamese, Filipino, Hispanic, Chinese and Anglo populations, and when we gathered together for the Triduum all sang the unaccompanied song, singing the liturgy herself (not singing at the liturgy), with vigor!

  12. Looking back at this thread, it is remarkable that, though I only commented on the legal aspects of just a few lines from the Archbishop’s pastoral letter, many have reacted as if I had been attacking the principles undwerlying entire document. In fact there are many things in the document that one might agree with, but those lines are not amongst them.

    Perhaps the comprehensive Pray Tell commentary on the document that was promised will eventually materialize.

    1. On the other hand, a formal full critique may mostly serve to serve as fodder for those would await an opportunity to defend it and extend the Internet half-life of its topicality. A feature of our particular point in time…. To the extent of the overlap with +Sample’s letter for the Diocese of Marquette six years ago this month, P/T covered that then. Pausing until there’s evidence of material effect on local praxis may make more sense, and directing commentary at evolving facts on the ground.

  13. If only Archbishop Sample had told the truth.
    I agree with Gary Penkala at Cantica Nova: “The custom of not using organ from [the Gloria on Thursday] until the same on Saturday is one well worth resuming. It points out the special nature of the liturgies, especially Friday’s, and forces choirs and congregations to sing a cappella music—a novel idea well worth the experience.” (And as a few have pointed out, a genuinely instrumentless-till-the-Vigil-Gloria Triduum has no prelude or accompanied opening hymn on Thursday.)
    But Rome has wisely refrained from making it mandatory, or even urged. Paul Inwood is surely right that some congregations couldn’t easily make it work. (My parish uses only discreet piano, or no accompaniment, in the somber parts of the Triduum, saving the organ until the Gloria at the Vigil. It’s at least half a loaf, and definitely better than none.)
    If only Archbishop Sample had honestly spoken of the instrumentless-till-the-Vigil-Gloria Triduum as something he was urging as chief liturgist of the archdiocese, with strong liturgical-spiritual-aesthetic arguments in its favor, instead of presenting it as something universally expected, we might not have needed this discussion at all.

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