Music in Catholic Worship
The Theology of Celebration
1. We are Christians because through the Christian community we
have met Jesus Christ, heard his word in invitation, and responded to
him in faith. We gather at Mass that we may hear and express our faith
again in this assembly and, by expressing it, renew and deepen it.
2. We do not come to meet Christ as if he were absent from the
rest of our lives. We come together to deepen our awareness of, and
commitment to, the action of his Spirit in the whole of our lives at
every moment. We come together to acknowledge the love of God poured
out among us in the work of the Spirit, to stand in awe and praise.
3. We are cerebrating when we involve ourselves meaningfully in
the thoughts, words, songs, and gestures of the worshiping
community—when everything we do is wholehearted and authentic for
us—when we mean the words and want to do what is done.
4. People in love make signs of love, not only to express their
love but also to deepen it. Love never expressed dies. Christians' love
for Christ and for one another and Christians' faith in Christ and in
one another must be expressed in the signs and symbols of celebration
or they will die.
5. Celebrations need not fail, even on a particular Sunday when
our feelings do not match the invitation of Christ and his Church to
worship. Faith does not always permeate our feelings. But the signs and
symbols of worship can give bodily expression to faith as we celebrate.
Our own faith is stimulated. We become one with others whose faith is
similarly expressed. We rise above our own feelings to respond to God
6. Faith grows when it is well expressed in celebration. Good
celebrations foster and nourish faith. Poor celebrations may weaken and
7. To celebrate the liturgy means to do the action or perform the
sign in such a way that its full meaning and impact shine forth in
clear and compelling fashion. Since liturgical signs are vehicles of
communication and instruments of faith, they must be simple and
comprehensible. Since they are directed to fellow human beings, they
must be humanly attractive. They must be meaningful and appealing to
the body of worshipers or they will fail to stir up faith and people
will fail to worship the Father.
8. The signs of celebration should tee short, clear, end
unencumbered by useless repetition; they should be "within the people's
powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much
If the signs need explanation to communicate faith, they will
often be watched instead of celebrated.
9. In true celebration each sign or sacramental action will be
invested with the personal and prayerful faith, care, attention, and
enthusiasm of those who carry it out.
Pastoral Planning for Celebration
10. The responsibility for effective pastoral celebration in a
parish community falls upon all those who exercise major roles in the
liturgy. "The practical preparation for each liturgical celebration
should tee done in a spirit of cooperation by all parties concerned,
under the guidance of the rector of the church, whether it be ritual,
pastoral, or musical matters."2 In practice this ordinarily means an
organized "planning team" or committee which meets regularly to achieve
creative and coordinated worship and a good use of the liturgical and
musical options of a flexible liturgy.
11. The power of a liturgical celebration to share faith will
frequently depend upon its unity—a unity drawn from the
liturgical feast or season or from the readings appointed in the
lectionary as well as artistic unity flowing from the skillful and
sensitive selection of options, music, and related arts. The sacred
scriptures ought to be the source and inspiration of sound planning for
it is of the very nature of celebration that people hear the saving
words and works of the Lord and then respond in meaningful signs and
symbols. Where the readings of the lectionary possess a thematic unity,
the other elements ought to be so arranged as to constitute a setting
for and response to the message of the Word.
12. The planning team or committee is headed by the priest
(Celebrant and homilist) for no congregation can experience the
richness of a unified celebration if that unity is not grasped by the
one who presides, as well as by those who have special roles. The
planning group should include those with the knowledge and artistic
skills needed in celebration: men and women trained in music, poetry,
and art, and familiar with current resources in these areas; men and
women sensitive also to the present day thirst of so many for the
riches of scripture, theology, and prayer. It is always good to include
some members of the congregation who have not taken special roles in
the celebrations so that honest evaluations can be made.
13. The planning should go beyond the choosing of options, songs,
and ministers to the composition of such texts as the brief
introduction, general intercessions, and other appropriate comments as
provided for in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. How people
are invited to join in a particular song may be as important as the
choice of the song itself.
14. In planning pastoral celebrations the congregation, the
occasion, and the celebrant must be taken into consideration.
15. "The pastoral effectiveness of a celebration will be
heightened if the texts of readings, prayers, and songs correspond as
closely as possible to the needs, religious dispositions, and aptitude
of the participants."3 A type of celebration suitable for a youth group
may not fit in a retirement home; a more formal style effective in a
parish church may be inappropriate in a home liturgy. The music used
should be within the competence of most of the worshipers. It should
suit their age.level, cultural background, and level of faith.
16. Variations in level of faith raise special problems.
Liturgical celebration presupposes a minimum of biblical knowledge and
a deep commitment of living faith. If these are lacking, there might
arise the tendency to use the liturgy as a tool of evangelization.
Greater liberty in the choice of music and style of celebration may be
required as the participants are led toward that day when they can
share their growing faith as members of the Christian community. Songs
like the psalms may create rather than solve problems where faith is
weak. Music, chosen with care, can serve as a bridge to faith as well
as an expression of it.
17. The diversity of people present at a parish liturgy gives
rise to a further problem. Can the same parish liturgy be an authentic
expression for a grade school girl, her college.age brother, their
married sister with her young family, their parents and grandparents?
Can it satisfy the theologically and musically educated along with
those lacking in training? Can it please those who seek a more informal
style of celebration? The planning team must consider the general
makeup of the total community. Each Christian must keep in mind that to
live and worship in community often demands a personal sacrifice. All
must be willing to share likes and dislikes with others whose ideas and
experiences may be quite unlike their own.
18. Often the problem of diversity can be mitigated by
supplementing the parish Sunday celebration with special celebrations
for smaller homogeneous groups. "The needs of the faithful of a
particular cultural background or of a particular age level may often
be met by a music that can serve as a congenial, liturgically oriented
expression of prayer.4 The music and other options may then be more
easily suited to the particular group celebrating. Celebration in such
groups, "in which the genuine sense of community is more readily
experienced, can contribute significantly to growth in awareness of the
parish as community, especially when all the faithful participate in
the parish Mass on the Lord's day."5 Nevertheless, it would be out of
harmony with the Lord's wish for unity in his Church if believers were
to worship only in such homogeneous groupings.6
l9. The same congregation will want to celebrate in a variety of
ways. During the course of the year the different mysteries of
redemption are recalled in the Mass so that in some way they are made
present.7 Each feast and season has its own spirit and its own music.
The penitential occasions demand more restraint. The great feasts
demand more solemnity. Solemnity, however, depends less on the
ornateness of song and magnificence of ceremonial than on worthy and
20. Generally a congregation or choir will want to sing more on
the great feasts like Christmas and Easter and less in the season
through the year. Important events in family and parish life will
suggest fuller programs of song. Sundays will be celebrated with
variety but always as befits the day of the Lord. All liturgies, from
the very simple to the most ornate, must be truly pastoral and
21. No other single factor affects the liturgy as much as the
attitude, style, and bearing of the celebrant: his sincere faith and
warmth as he welcomes the worshiping community; his human naturalness
combined with dignity and seriousness as he breaks the Bread of Word
22. The style and pattern of song ought to increase the
effectiveness of a good celebrant. His role is enhanced when he is
capable of rendering some of his parts in song, and he should be
encouraged to do so. What he cannot sing well and effectively he ought
to recite. If capable of singing, he ought, for the sake of people, to
rehearse carefully the sung parts that contribute to their
The Place of Music in the Celebration
Music Serves the Expression of Faith
23. Among the many signs and symbols used by the Church to
celebrate its faith, music is of preeminent importance. As sacred song
united to words it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn
liturgy.'? Yet the function of music is ministerial; it must serve and
never dominate. Music should assist the assembled believers to express
and share the gift of faith that is within them and to nourish and
strengthen their interior commitment of faith. It should heighten the
texts so that they speak more fully and more effectively. The quality
of joy and enthusiasm which music adds to community worship cannot be
gained in any other way. It imparts a sense of unity to the
congregation and sets the appropriate tone for a particular
24. In addition to expressing texts, music can also unveil a
dimension of meaning and feeling, a communication of ideas and
intuitions which words alone cannot yield. This dimension is integral
to the human personality and to growth in faith. It cannot be ignored
if the signs of worship are to speak to the whole person. Ideally,
every communal celebration of faith, including funerals and the
sacraments of baptism, confirmation, penance, anointing, and matrimony,
should include music and singing. Where it is possible to celebrate the
Liturgy of the Hours in a community, it, too, should include music.
25. To determine the value of a given musical element in a
liturgical celebration a threefold judgment must be made: musical,
liturgical, and pastoral.
The Musical Judgment
26. Is the music technically, aesthetically, and expressively
good? This judgment is basic and primary and should be made by
competent musicians. Only artistically sound music will be effective in
the long run. To admit the cheap, the trite, the musical cliche often
found in popular songs for the purpose of "instant liturgy" is to
cheapen the liturgy, to expose it to ridicule, and to invite failure.
27. Musicians must search for and create music of quality for
worship, especially the new musical settings for the new liturgical
texts. They must also do the research needed to find new uses for the
best of the old music. They must explore the repertory of good music
used in other communions. They must find practical means of preserving
and using our rich heritage of Latin chants and motets."
In the meantime, however, the words of St. Augustine should not
be forgotten: “Do not allow yourselves to be offended by the
imperfect while you strive for the perfect.”
28. We do a disservice to musical values, however, when we
confuse the judgment of music with the judgment of musical style. Style
and value are two distinct judgments. Good music of new styles is
finding a happy home in the celebrations of today. To chant and
polyphony we have effectively added the chorale hymn, restored
responsorial singing to some extent, and employed many styles of
contemporary composition. Music in folk idiom is finding acceptance in
eucharistic celebrations. We must judge value within each style.
"In modern times the Church has consistently recognized and
freely admitted the use of various styles of music as an aid to
liturgical worship. Since the promulgation of the Constitution on the
Liturgy and more especially since the introduction of vernacular
languages into the liturgy, there has arisen a more pressing need for
musical compositions in idioms that can be sung by the congregation and
thus further communal participation."'2
29. The musician has every right to insist that the music be
good. But although all liturgical music should be good, not all good
music is suitable to the liturgy. The musical judgment is basic but not
final. There remain the liturgical and pastoral judgments.
The Liturgical Judgment
30. The nature of the liturgy itself will help to determine what
kind of music is called for, what parts are to be preferred for
singing, and who is to sing them.
A. Structural Requirements
31. The choice of sung parts, the balance between them, and the
style of musical setting used should reflect the relative importance of
the parts of the Mass or other service) and the nature of each part.
Thus elaborate settings of the entrance song, "Lord have Mercy" and
"Glory to God" may make the proclamation of the word seem unimportant;
and an overly elaborate offertory song with a spoken "Holy, Holy, Holy
Lord" may make the eucharistic prayer seem less important.
B. Textual Requirements
32. Does the music express and interpret the text correctly and
make it more meaningful? Is the form of the text respected? In making
these judgments the principal classes of texts must be kept in mind:
proclamations, acclamations, psalms and hymns, and prayers. Each has a
specific function which must be served by the music chosen for a text.
In most instances there is an official liturgical text approved by the
episcopal conference. "Vernacular texts set to music composed in
earlier periods," however, "may be used in liturgical texts."'3 As
noted elsewhere, criteria have been provided for the texts which may
replace the processional chants of Mass. In these cases and in the
choice of all supplementary music, the texts "must always be in
conformity with Catholic doctrine; indeed they should be drawn chiefly
from holy scripture and from liturgical sources."'4
C. Role Differentiation
33. "In liturgical celebrations each one, minister or layperson,
who has an office to perform, should do all of, but only, those parts
which pertain to that office by the nature of the rite and the
principles of liturgy."'5 Special musical concern must be given to the
role of the congregation, the cantor, the choir, and the
D. The Congregation
34. Music for the congregation must be within its members'
performance capability. The congregation must be comfortable and secure
with what they are doing in order to celebrate well.
E. The Cantor
35. While there is no place in the liturgy for display of
virtuosity for its own sake, artistry is valued, and an individual
singer can effectively lead the assembly, attractively proclaim the
Word of God in the psalm sung between the readings, and take his or her
part in other responsorial singing. "Provision should be made for at
least one or two properly trained singers, especially where there is no
possibility of setting up even a small choir. The singer will present
some simpler musical settings, with the people taking part, and can
lead and support the faithful as far as is needed. The presence of such
a singer is desirable even in churches which have a choir, for those
celebrations in which the choir cannot take part but which may
fittingly be performed with some solemnity and therefore with
singing."'6 Although a cantor "cannot enhance the service of worship in
the same way as a choir, a trained and competent cantor can perform an
important ministry by leading the congregation in common sacred song
and in responsorial singing."'7
F. The Choir
36. A well.trained choir adds beauty and solemnity to the liturgy
and also assists and encourages the singing of the congregation. The
Second Vatican Council, speaking of the choir, stated emphatically:
"Choirs must be diligently promoted," provided that "the whole body of
the faithful may be able to contribute that active participation which
is rightly theirs."'8
"At times the choir, within the congregation of the faithful and
as part of it, will assume the role of leadership, while at other times
it will retain its own distinctive ministry. This means that the choir
will lead the people in sung prayer, by alternating or reinforcing the
sacred song of the congregation, or by enhancing it with the addition
of a musical elaboration. At other times in the course of liturgical
celebration the choir alone will sing works whose musical demands
enlist and challenge its competence."'9
G. The Organist and Other Instrumentalists
37. Song is not the only kind of music suitable for liturgical
celebration. Music performed on the organ and other instruments can
stimulate feelings of joy and contemplation at appropriate times.20
This can be done effectively at the following points: an instrumental
prelude, a soft background to a spoken psalm, at the preparation of the
gifts in place of singing, during portions of the communion rite, and
the recessional. In the dioceses of the United States, "musical
instruments other than the organ may be used in liturgical services,
provided they are played in a manner that is suitable to public
worship."2' This decision deliberately refrains from singling out
specific instruments. Their use depends on circumstances, the nature of
the congregation, etc.
38. The proper placing of the organ and choir according to the
arrangement and acoustics of the church will facilitate celebration.
Practically speaking, the choir must be near the director and the organ
(both console and sound). The choir ought to be able to perform without
too much distraction; the acoustics ought to give a lively presence of
sound in the choir area and allow both tone and word to reach the
congregation with clarity. Visually it is desirable that the choir
appear to be part of the worshiping community, yet a part which serves
in a unique way. Locating the organ console too far from the
congregation causes a time lag which tends to make the singing drag
unless the organist is trained to cope with it. A location near the
front pews will facilitate congregational singing.
The Pastoral Judgment
39. The pastoral judgment governs the use and function of every
element of celebration. Ideally this judgment is made by the planning
team or committee. It is the judgment that must be made in this
particular situation, in these concrete circumstances. Does music in
the celebration enable these people to express their faith, in this
place, in this age, in this culture?
40. The instruction of the Congregation for Divine Worship,
issued September 5, 1970, encourages episcopal conferences to consider
not only liturgical music's suitability to the time and circumstances
of the celebration, "but also the needs of the faithful who will sing
them. All means must be used to promote singing by the people. New
forms should be used, which are adapted to the different mentalities
and to modern tastes. The document adds that the music and the
instruments as should correspond to the sacred character of the
celebration and the place of worship."
41. A musician may judge that a certain composition or style of
composition is good music, but this musical judgment really says
nothing about whether and how this music is to be used in this
celebration. The signs of the celebration must be accepted and received
as meaningful for a genuinely human faith experience for these specific
worshipers. This pastoral judgment can be aided by sensitivity to the
cultural and social characteristics of the people who make up the
congregation: their age, culture, and education. These factors
influence the effectiveness of the liturgical signs, including music.
No set of rubrics or regulations of itself will ever achieve a truly
pastoral celebration of the sacramental rites. Such regulations must
always be applied with a pastoral concern for the given worshiping
General Considerations of Liturgical Structure
42. Those responsible for planning the music for eucharistic
celebrations in accord with the three preceding judgments must have a
clear understanding of the structure of the liturgy. They must be aware
of what is of primary importance. They should know the nature of each
of the parts of the liturgy and the relationship of each part to the
overall rhythm of the liturgical action.
43. The Mass is made up of the liturgy of the word and the
liturgy of the Eucharist. These two parts are so closely connected as
to form one act of worship. The table of the Lord is both the table of
God's Word and the table of Christ's Body, and from it the faithful are
instructed and refreshed. In addition, the Mass has introductory and
concluding rites.2 The introductory and concluding rites are secondary.
The Introductory Rites
44. The parts preceding the liturgy of the word, namely, the
entrance, greeting, penitential rite, Kyrie, Gloria, and opening prayer
or collect, have the character of introduction and preparation. The
purpose of these rites is to help the assembled people become a
worshiping community and to prepare them for listening to God's Word
and celebrating the Eucharist.23 Of these parts the entrance song and
the opening prayer are primary. All else is secondary.
If Mass begins with the sprinkling of the people with blessed
water, the penitential rite is omitted; this may be done at all Sunday
Masses.~ Similarly, if the psalms of part of the Liturgy of the Hours
precede Mass, the introductory
The Concluding Rite
49. The concluding rite consists of the priest's greeting and
blessing, which is sometimes expanded by the prayer over the people or
another solemn form, and the dismissal which sends forth each member of
the congregation to do good works, praising and blessing the Lord.28
A recessional song is optional. The greeting, blessing,
dismissal, and recessional song or instrumental music ideally form one
continuous action which may culminate in the priest's personal
greetings and conversations at the church door.
Application of the Principles of Celebration to Music in Eucharistic
50. Many and varied musical patterns are now possible within the
liturgical structure. Musicians and composers need to respond
creatively and responsibly to the challenge of developing new music for
51. While it is possible to make technical distinctions in the
forms of the Mass—all the way from the Mass in which nothing is
sung to the Mass in which everything is sung—such distinctions
are of little significance in themselves; almost unlimited combinations
of sung and recited parts may be chosen. The important decision is
whether or not this or that part may be or should be sung in this
particular celebration and under these specific circumstances.29 The
former distinction between the ordinary and proper parts of the Mass
with regard to musical settings and distribution of roles is no longer
retained. For this reason the musical settings of the past are usually
not helpful models for composing truly liturgical pieces today.
52. Two patterns formerly served as the basis for creating and
planning liturgy. One was "High Mass" with its five movements, sung
Ordinary and fourfold sung Proper. The other was the four.hymn "Low
Mass" format that grew out of the Instruction on Sacred Music of 1958.
The four.hymn pattern developed in the context of a Latin Mass which
could accommodate song in the vernacular only at certain points. It is
now outdated, and the Mass has more than a dozen parts that may be
sung, as well as numerous options for the celebrant. Each of these
parts must be understood according to its proper nature and function.
53. The acclamations are shouts of joy which arise from the whole
assembly as forceful and meaningful assents to God's Word and Action.
They are important because they make some of the most significant
moments of the Mass Igospel, eucharistic prayer, Lord's Prayer) stand
out. It is of their nature that they be rhythmically strong,
melodically appealing, and affirmative. The people should know the
acclamations by heart in order to sing them spontaneously. Some rite is
abbreviated in accord with the General Instruction on The Liturgy of
The Liturgy of the Word
45. Readings from scripture are the heart of the liturgy of the
word. The homily, responsorial psalms, profession of faith, and general
intercessions develop and complete it. In the readings, God speaks to
his people and nourishes their spirit; Christ is present through his
word. The homily explains the readings. The chants and the profession
of faith comprise the people's acceptance of God's Word. It is of
primary importance that the people hear God's message of love, digest
it with the aid of psalms, silence, and the homily, and respond,
involving themselves in the great covenant of love and redemption. All
else is secondary.
The Preparation of the Gift
46. The eucharistic prayer is preceded by the preparation of the
gifts. The purpose of the rite is to prepare bread and wine for the
sacrifice. The secondary character of the rite determines the manner of
the celebration. It consists very simply of bringing the gifts to the
altar, possibly accompanied by song, prayers to be said by the
celebrant as he prepares the gifts, and the prayer over the gifts. Of
these elements the bringing of the gifts, the placing of the gifts on
the altar, and the prayer over the gifts are primary. All else is
The Eucharistic Prayer
47. The eucharistic prayer, a prayer of thanksgiving and
sanctification, is the center of the entire celebration. By an
introductory dialogue the priest invites the people to lift their
hearts to God in praise and thanks; he unites them with himself in the
prayer he addresses in their name to the Father through Jesus Christ.
The meaning of the prayer is that the whole congregation joins itself
to Christ in acknowledging the works of God and in offering the
sacrifice.26 As a statement of the faith of the local assembly it is
affirmed and ratified by all those present through acclamations of
faith: the first acclamation or Sanctus, the memorial acclamation, and
the Great Amen.
The Communion Rite
48. The eating and drinking of the Body and Blood of the Lord in
a paschal meal is the climax of our eucharistic celebration. It is
prepared for by several rites: the Lord's Prayer with embolism and
doxology, the rite of peace, breaking of bread land commingling) during
the "Lamb of God," private preparation of the priest, and showing of
the eucharistic bread. The eating and drinking are accompanied by a
song expressing the unity of communicants and followed by a time of
prayer after communion.27 Those elements are primary which show forth
signs that the first fruit of the Eucharist is the unity of the Body of
Christ, Christians being loved by Christ and loving him through their
love of one another. The principal texts to accompany or express the
sacred action are the Lord's Prayer, the song during the communion
procession, and the prayer after communion. variety is recommended and
even imperative. The challenge to the composer and people alike is one
of variety without confusion.
54. In the eucharistic celebration there are five acclamations
which ought to be sung even at Masses in which little else is sung:
Alleluia; "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord"; Memorial Acclamation; Great Amen;
Doxology to the Lord's Prayer.
55. This acclamation of paschal joy is both a reflection upon the
Word of God proclaimed in the liturgy and a preparation for the gospel.
All stand to sing it. After the cantor or choir sings the alleluia(s),
the people customarily repeat it. Then a single proper verse is sung by
the cantor or choir, and all repeat the alleluials). If not sung, the
alleluia should be omitted.30 A moment of silent reflection may be
observed in its place. During Lent a brief verse of acclamatory
character replaces the alleluia and is sung in the same way.
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord
56. This is the people's acclamation of praise concluding the
preface of the eucharistic prayer. We join the whole communion of
saints in acclaiming the Lord. Settings which add harmony or descants
on solemn feasts and occasions are appropriate, but since this chant
belongs to priest and people, the choir parts must facilitate and make
effective the people's parts.
The Memorial Acclamation
57. We support one another's faith in the paschal mystery, the
central mystery of our belief. This acclamation is properly a memorial
of the Lord's suffering and glorification, with an expression of faith
in his coming. Variety in text and music is desirable.
The Great Amen
58. The worshipers assent to the eucharistic prayer and make it
their own in the Great Amen. To be most effective, the Amen may be
repeated or augmented. Choirs may harmonize and expand upon the
Doxology to the Lord's Prayer
59. These words of praise, "For the Kingdom, the power and the
glory are yours, now and forever," are fittingly sung by all,
especially when the Lord's Prayer is sung. Here, too, the choir may
enhance the acclamation with harmony.
B. Processional Songs
60. The two processional chants—the entrance song and the
communion song—are very important for creating and sustaining an
awareness of community. Proper antiphons are given to be used with
appropriate psalm verses. These may be replaced by the chants of the
Simple Gradual, by other psalms and antiphons, or by other fitting
The Entrance Song
61. The entrance song should create an atmosphere of celebration.
It helps put the assembly in the proper frame of mind for listening to
the Word of God. It helps people to become conscious of themselves as a
worshiping community. The choice of texts for the entrance song should
not conflict with these purposes. In general, during the most important
seasons of the Church year—Easter, Lent, Christmas, and
Advent—it is preferable that most songs used at the entrance be
seasonal in nature.32
The Communion Song
62. The communion song should foster a sense of unity. It should
be simple and not demand great effort. It gives expression to the joy
of unity in the body of Christ and the fulfillment of the mystery being
celebrated. Because they emphas~ze adoration rather than communion,
most benediction hymns are not suitable. In general, during the most
important seasons of the Church year—Easter, Lent, Christmas, and
Advent—it is preferable that most songs used at the communion be
seasonal in nature. For the remainder of the Church year, however,
topical songs may be used during the communion procession, provided
these texts do not conflict with the paschal character of every
C. Responsorial Psalm
63. This unique and very important song is the response to the
first lesson. The new lectionary's determination to match the content
of the psalms to the theme of reading is reflected in its listing of
900 refrains. The liturgy of the Word comes more fully to life if
between the first two readings a cantor sings the psalm and all sing
the response. Since most groups cannot learn a new response every week,
seasonal refrains are offered in the lectionary itself and in the
Simple Gradual. Other psalms and refrains may also be used, including
psalms arranged in responsorial form and metrical and similar versions
of psalms, provided they are used in accordance with the principles of
the Simple Gradual and are selected in harmony with the liturgical
season, feast or occasion. The choice of the texts which are not from
the psalter is not extended to the chants between the readings.34 To
facilitate reflection, there may be a brief period of silence between
the first reading and the responsorial psalm.
D. Ordinary Chants
64. The fourth category is the ordinary chants, which now may be
treated as individual choices. One or more may be sung; the others
spoken. The pattern may vary according to the circumstances. These
chants are the following:
Lord Have Mercy
65. This short litany was traditionally a prayer of praise to the
risen Christ. He has been raised and made "Lord," and we beg him to
show his loving kindness. The sixfold Kyrie of the new order of Mass
may be sung in other ways, for example, as a ninefold chant.35 It may
also be incorporated in the penitential rite, with invocations
addressed to Christ. When sung, the setting should be brief and simple
in order not to give undue importance to the introductory rites.
Glory to God
66. This ancient hymn of praise is now given in a new poetic and
singable translation. It may be introduced by celebrant, cantor, or
choir. The restricted use of the Gloria, i.e., only on Sundays outside
Advent and Lent and on solemnities and feasts,36 emphasizes its special
and solemn character. The new text offers many opportunities for
alternation of choir and people in poetic parallelisms. The "Glory to
God" also provides an opportunity for the choir to sing alone on
67. This prayer begins our immediate preparation for sharing in
the Paschal Banquet. The traditional text is retained and may be set to
music by composers with the same freedom as other parts of the
Ordinary. All settings must provide for the participation of the priest
and all present.
Lamb of God
68. The Agnus Dei is a litany.song to accompany the breaking of
the bread in preparation for communion. The invocation and response may
be repeated as the action demands. The final response is always "grant
us peace." Unlike the "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord," and the Lord's Prayer,
the "Lamb of God" is not necessarily a song of the people. Hence it may
be sung by the choir, though the people should generally make the
Profession of Faith
69. This is a communal profession of faith in which". . . the
people who have heard the Word of God in the lesson and in the homily
may assent and respond to it, and may renew in themselves the rule of
faith as they begin to celebrate the Eucharist."37 It is usually
preferable that the Creed be spoken in declamatory fashion rather than
sung.33 If it is sung, it might more effectively take the form of a
simple musical declamation rather than an extensive and involved
E. supplementary Songs
70. This category includes songs for which there are no specified
texts nor any requirements that there should be a spoken or sung text.
Here the choir may play a fuller role, for there is no question of
usurping the people's part. This category includes the following:
The Offertory Song
71. The offertory song may accompany the procession and
preparation of the gifts. It is not always necessary or desirable.
Organ or instrumental music is also fitting at the time. When song is
used, it need not speak of bread and wine or of offering. The proper
function of this song is to accompany and celebrate the communal
aspects of the procession. The text, therefore, can be any appropriate
song of praise or of rejoicing in keeping with the season. The
antiphons of the Roman Gradual, not included in the new Roman Missal,
may be used with psalm verses. Instrumental interludes can effectively
accompany the procession and preparation of the gifts and thus keep
this part of the Mass in proper perspective relative to the eucharistic
prayer which follows.
The Psalm or Song After Communion
72. The singing of a psalm or hymn of praise after the
distribution of communion is optional. If the organ is played or the
choir sings during the distribution of communion, a congregational song
may well provide a fitting expression of oneness in the Eucharistic
Lord. Since no particular text is specified, there is ample room for
The Recessional Song
73. The recessional song has never been an official part of the
rite; hence musicians are free to plan music which provides an
appropriate closing to the liturgy. A song is one possible choice.
However, if the people have sung a song after communion, it may be
advisable to use only an instrumental or choir recessional.
74. Litanies are often more effective when sung. The repetition
of melody and rhythm draws the people together in a strong and unified
response. In addition to the "Lamb of God," already mentioned, the
general intercessions 1prayer of the faithful! offer an opportunity for
litanical singing, as do the invocations of Christ in the penitential
Progress and New Directions
75. Many new patterns and combinations of song are emerging in
eucharistic celebrations. Congregations most frequently sing an
entrance song, alleluia, "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord," memorial acclamation,
Great Amen, and a song at communion lor a song after communion!. Other
parts are added in varying quantities, depending on season, degree of
solemnity and musical resources. Choirs often add one or more of the
following: a song before Mass, an Offertory song, the "Glory to God" on
special occasions, additional communion songs or a song after communion
or a recessional. They may also enhance the congregationally sung
entrance song and acclamations with descants, harmony, and antiphonal
arrangements. Harmony is desirable when, without confusing the people,
it gives breadth and power to their voices in unison.
76. Flexibility is recognized today as an important value in
liturgy. The musician with a sense of artistry and a deep knowledge of
the rhythm of the liturgical action will be able to combine the many
options into an effective whole. For the composer and performer alike
there is an unprecedented challenge. They must enhance the liturgy with
new creations of variety and richness and with those compositions from
the time.honored treasury of liturgical music which can still serve
today's celebrations. Like the wise householder in Matthew's Gospel,
the church musician must be one "who can produce from his store both
the new and the old."
77. The Church in the United States today needs the service of
many qualified musicians as song leaders, organists, instrumentalists,
cantors, choir directors, and composers. We have been blessed with many
generous musicians who have given years of service despite receiving
only meager financial compensation. For the art to grow and face the
challenges of today and tomQrrow, every diocese and parish should
establish policies for hiring and paying living wages to competent
musicians. Full.time musicians employed by the Church ought to be on
the same salary scale as teachers with similar qualifications and
78. Likewise, to ensure that composers and publishers receive
just compensation for their work, those engaged in parish music
programs and those responsible for budgets must often be reminded that
it is illegal and immoral to reproduce copyrighted texts and music by
any means without written permission of the copyright owner. The fact
that these duplicated materials are not for sale but for private use
does not alter the legal or moral situation of copying without
Music in Sacramental Celebrations
79. While music has traditionally been part of the celebration of
weddings, funerals, and confirmation, the communal celebration of
baptism, anointing, and penance has only recently been restored. The
renewed rituals, following the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy,
provide for and encourage communal celebrations, which, according to
the capability of the congregation, should involve song.4'
80. The rite of baptism is best begun by an entrance song;42 the
liturgy of the word is enhanced by a sung psalm and/or alleluia. Where
the processions to and from the place of the liturgy of the word and
the baptistry take some time, they should be accompanied by music.
Above all, the acclamations—the affirmation of faith by the
people, the acclamation immediately after the baptism, the acclamation
upon completion of the rite—should tee sung by the whole
81. Whenever rites like the anointing of the sick or the
sacrament of penance are celebrated communally, music is important. The
general structure is introductory rite, liturgy of the word, sacrament,
and dismissal. The introductory rite and liturgy of the word follow the
pattern of the Mass. At the time of the sacrament an acclamation or
song by all the people is desirable.
82. Confirmation and marriage are most often celebrated within a
Mass. The norms given above pertain. Great care should be taken,
especially at marriages, that all the people are involved at the
important moments of the celebration, that the same general principles
of planning worship and judging music are employed as at other
liturgies, and, above all, that the liturgy is a prayer for all
present, not a theatrical production.
83. Music becomes particularly important in the new burial rites.
Without it the themes of hope and resurrection are very difficult to
express. The entrance song, the acclamations, and the song of farewell
or commendation are of primary importance for the whole congregation.
The choral and instrumental music should fit the paschal mystery theme.
84. There is vital interest today in the Mass as prayer, and in
this understanding of the Mass lies a principle of synthesis which is
essential to good liturgical worship. When all strive with one accord
to make the Mass a prayer, a sharing and celebration of Faith, the
result is unity. Styles of music, choices of instruments, forms of
celebration—all converge in a single purpose: that men and women
of faith may proclaim and share that faith in prayer and Christ may
grow among us all.
1 CSL 34. 33. Ibid.
2 MS 5e; GI 73. 34. NCCB, Nov
1968; cf. GI 6.
3 GI 313. 35. Cf. GI 30.
4 BCLN,18 April 1966. 36. GI 31.
5 BCLN,17 Feb 1967. 37. GI 43.
6 AP. 38. NCCB, Nov 1967.
7 GI 1; cf. CSL 102. 39. BCLN, 18
8 MS 11. 40. BCLN, April 1969.
9 MS8. 41.Cf.CSL27.
10 Cf. CSL 112. 42. Baptism 5,
11 Cf. CSL 114, 116. 43. Riee of
12 BCLN, 18 April 1966.
13 National Conference of
Catholic Bishops, [NCCB] Nov 1967.
14 CSL 121.
15 CSL 28.
16 MS 21.
17 BCLN, 18 April 1966.
18 CSL 114.
19 BCLN, 18 April 1966.
20 Cf. CSL 120; MS 63.65; LI 3c.
21 NCCB, Nov 1967; cf. CSL 120.
22 GI 8.
23 GI 24.
24 Cf. RM, Blessing and
Sprinkling of Holy Water, 1.
25 The Liturgy of the Hours,
General Instruction, 93.98.
26 GI 54.
27 GI 56.
28 GI 57.
29 Cf.GI19;MS28, 36.
30 GI 39. The first edition of
this document had the word Nmay" instead of Hshould.H This change has
been made in the second edition in light of the norm found in LMI 23.
31 GI 56.
32 NCCB, Nov. 1969.