Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sacred Music At The Vatican

Here is a link to the norms for the participation of choirs at Saint Peter's Basilica.

Section 2 of the norms says:

The Musical Chapel of St. Peter’s Basilica follows the norms of the Magisterium of
the Church regarding liturgical song, and especially the Chirograph of John Paul II
and the latest pronouncements of Benedict XVI in the matter of liturgical music.

It's too bad that most parishes across America fail to follow the Vatican's lead where liturgy is concerned.

In case any music directors stop by, here are the chants they use and when they are sung.

As a general norm, the chants from the Ordinary to be execute are:
Sundays of Advent: Missa XVII Credo IV
Sundays of Christmas: Missa IX Credo IV
Sundays of Lent: Missa XVII Credo IV
Sundays of Easter: Missa I Credo III
Sundays of Ordinary Time: Missa XI Credo I
Feasts of Ordinary Time: Missa VIII Credo III
Feasts of the B.V. Mary: Missa IX Credo IV
Feasts of the Apostles: Missa IV Credo III

So why not try what the Vatican recommends instead of turning to that OCP (the largest purveyor of bad music in America) missalette . You'll make Traddy smile if you do!


Anonymous said...

Sir Rockin One of Rockin One's:

I sympathize with you. Even as a kid I hated the Haugen/Dass Saint Louis Jesuits stuff and wondered what it was with Catholics and this kind if stuff. (At the time I attended both Catholic and Protestant Churches becasue my Father at the time was not Catholic.)

Actually Sir Rockin One, notwithstanding the above, when Contemperary music is done sparingly I don't mind it. Then, it becomes a nice change of pace, something different. My parish for example has a Contemperary group sing once a month and they do very well. It is, in such a context a nice change of pace.

At Saint John Neumann, we celebrate Mass in a Church. Prior to my arrival, the music was all Contemperary all the time. That was one of the first things I changed. We have Mass three times a month, and Adoration once a month. At one of the monthly Masses we utilize the organ, and traditional hymnody. I choose the music. At two of the masses they use Piano and whatever other instruments they want. I allow the music director to choose the music for that. I only asked that the music be theologically sound. For example- I will not allow "Precious Body, Precious Blood." or "Sing a New Church into Being" becasue the theology is abborant. At Adoration we use the organ. It goes without saying that at the major school events of the year-- the organ is used. The DRF and I have agreed that the solemnity of those occasions calls for an organ.

My point: Contemperary music is not my thing- but I am willing to be "open" and even "tolerant." I am willing to concede a place for it. In many Churches however, often times the music directors are so ingrained with this stuff, they see it as an imposition when the pastor seeks to have more "diversity" with the addition of traditinoal music! Becasue of this, pastors who seek the use of more traditional music have an uphill battle. Just read the comment on the times where someone lambasts Honesdale after the former pastor left for egad- the new pastor wants to use more traditional music! The horror of it all!

Father Dave Bechtel

The Rockin' Traddy said...

Hiya Father!

Yep, most of what I hear around the diocese is pretty bad. But what is most astounding to me are these Vatican II music directors who have not read, or worse, have not followed what their favorite council wrote regarding sacred music.

Perhaps after the Holy See has us say the proper translation of the Mass, they will turn their attention to righting the sacred music ship, which is far off course.

God bless you!

Christian said...

My particular lament on this one relates to the psalms. At my parish we sing the same 4 or 5 psalms no matter what the day is, no matter what the text for the Mass is. Granted our cantor's are not all of excellent caliber and may require practice (horror!)to do a relatively new one every week. But from where does the liberty with psalms come from? Is there lattitude in the GIRM?

The Rockin' Traddy said...

I see the same problem with the Agnus Dei, Christian. I cannot find the citation right now, but it is supposed to be the same all three times it is said. It is not supposed to be changed to "Jesus King of Kings" or anything else.

Lamb of God.
Lamb of God.
Lamb of God.

Blame OCP and uneducated music directors. That's what I do...

Oh, and priests who are scared of their own shadow who don't want to rock the boat by making any meaningful changes, unless they decide to wash women's feet on Maundy Thursday. Ya can't have the womenfolk feeling left out, that's bad karma....

Anonymous said...

Sir Rockin One:

Some of my fellow younger clergy have commented on the hope that with the new translation---it will be pretty obvious that Contemperary music just doesn't work.

The hope is that when we are reciting the "high english" (for lack of a better word) the Haugen/Dass Saint Louis Jesuits stuff will be quite obviously out of place.

Again, let me just say that Contemperary music has it's place. I think that is more then you are willing to grant Sir Rockin One. I am just trying to say that it should not be the NORM, but rather an exception. When done by way of exception, it can be a nice change of pace.

I had some of my students at the school read the Vatican II document on the Liturgy. My goal was to help them understand the Mass, it's purpose, end, and the wherefor's and why's. A lot of people think the Mass is supposed to be this "Emotional Experience" or "Entertaining." (In other words all about them)

All that being said, just becasue Mass is not meant to entertain is no excuse for a priest who is not prepared or takes Mass serioulsy.

Father Dave Bechtel

Anonymous said...

I know I'm just flappin in the breeze here, but Father B you said Saint John Neumann...I'm guessing from the context of your posts that you're talking about a church in Pennsylvania, right? There is a Saint John Neumann church I used to go to a loong time ago (but a different state...) so it just caught my ear. Eye. Whichever. I got my first communion there I believe but there was drama at the time about one of the priests. Anyway I doubt it's the same one considering I'm not in the same state...

- L

Anonymous said...


Saint John Neumann is a Catholic School System in Williamsport PA. I have been assigned there as the chaplain. I am also assistant pastor at the newly formed parish of Saint Joseph the Worker in Williamsport.

I love both assignments, I love the people, and I absolutely love this end of the Diocese. Contrary to what many in the Valley believe (Wilkes-barre-Scranton) it is quite nice out here and I am very content to spend the rest of my priesthood in this end of the Diocese. Far from being an exile or punishment- which is what some view an assignment out here as, I could not ask for a better place to be, or better assignment or better people, or a better parish.

To boot, my parish has a great music program which very dedicated people.

Father Dave Bechtel

Raphael said...


Thanks for posting this. Many priests and music directors in our diocese need to be reminded of the Vatican's norms for sacred music. But hey, some of us are really trying!

To be honest, I'd sooner recommend London's Westminster Cathedral as a model. The new archbishop removed the temporary altar and restored Mass at the high altar. And their choir of men and boys is arguably the best in the world. I'm sure you've seen some of the images/videos from there over at NLM.


While I don't know what psalms are being sung at your parish, it IS a licit option to sing a seasonal psalm in place of the prescribed psalm of the day. The other options given in the GIRM are the singing of the Gradual from the Graduale Romanum or from another setting, or the seasonal antiphon and psalm from the Simple Gradual. I think the leeway given here is a good thing for parishes with competent choirmasters and pastors who can choose the best and most realistic option for their particular situatuion. At my parishes, we generally use the psalm of the day with a metrical antiphon and chanted verses, but on a few occasions we chant a setting from By Flowing Waters (English version of the Simple Gradual), and on Palm Sunday and Good Friday we chant the Gradual in Latin.

Father Betchel,

I see your point about contemporary, popular-influenced music and how it can have a legitimate place in the Liturgy. Whether we like it or not, the music of the wider world will always have some influence. It always has. Think about some of our cherished polyphonic Masses. A number are based on popular chansons!

A distinction needs to be made, however, between high quality modern music and inferior contemporary songs. I mentioned Westminster Cathedral in my comment to Traddy. Check out their Midnight Mass videos if you haven't already. The setting of "O Magnum Mysterium" and the Whitacre "Lux Aurumque" were very modern in their style and harmony, but both are very fitting for the Liturgy in my opinion. I think composers should continue to expand the Church's repertoire of sacred music, but new compositions should not be lacking in quality like many of the reformed folk style pieces still popular in many parishes.

I think it is wonderful that you had some of your high school students read the liturgical documents, and I applaud your diversifying the choice of liturgical music to include more than contemporary songs. Sacred Liturgy at Catholic schools (and cathedral churches) should be a model for the rest of the diocese, and in both cases much work needs to be done. While it's great that the organ is used for some school Masses and "traditional hymnody" is sung, I believe that Catholic schools have an obligation to teach students the basic music of the Mass recommended by the Church. Traddy's post details the Mass ordinaries sung by the Vatican. The American bishops (yes, the American bishops!) in their latest instruction on Sacred music go so far as to say that "Each worshiping community in the United States, including all age groups and all ethnic groups, should, at a minimum, learn Kyrie XVI, Sanctus XVIII, and Agnus Dei XVIII, all of which are typically included in congregational worship aids. More difficult chants, such as Gloria VIII and settings of the Credo and Pater Noster, might be learned after the easier chants have been mastered." Many of our parishes and schools have a long way to go before even this basic foundation is mastered.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the explanation. I didn't know you worked with a school system too, that's cool. I don't know much about Pennsylvania but I'm glad you enjoy where and what you are working. Do priests have any say of where they end up or are they just assigned?

And yeah, the St. John Neumann I was referring to is just a little parish in Maryland somewhere, lol...not the same one for sure!

- L

Anonymous said...


There are many, many factors which go into assignments and all of them play into where a priest goes. Among the factors I can give you the general trends which figure in assignments. These are simply trends- as with anything there are always exceptions. These are also not all inclusive.

In general the elder guys tend to get preference over the younger ones. Someone like me who is new is not going to get the same treatment or consideration as someone with 40 years of ordination behind him.

Abilities and experience is another consideration. Typically the men the Diocese percieves as "experienced" and "seasoned" will pastor the larger parishes while the younger ones will be assistants or pastor the smaller parishes. They may also be chaplains of schools. That being said, some priests like being assistants and don't want to pastor, others like education and so will stay in school work.

There are also areas of the Diocese where priests would rather be. The older men tend to prefer for whatever reason the more central areas of the Diocese- especially Wilkes-Barre Scranton. I don't know if the younger men are so wed to those areas, especially the ones like me who are not native to the Diocese.

The particular needs of the parish. For example: parishes financially strapped might have a priest assigned as pastor who is good at administration.

Another example: parishes who have had a liberal pastor might be followed with a more moderate pastor so the people can realize that there is more to the Church then Catholic Social Teaching and Haugen/Dass music, or that the miracles the Bible recorded- really aren't just some wild invention of the "Mathean Redactor" or "Q Community" (Oh lighten up. As if Liberals don't put Conservatives into a box!)

Another example: Parishes consolidated might be assigned a pastor who is good a uniting people, bringing people together, or working in contentious situations.

Finally, the bishop's own desires.

There is not just one factor which goes into assignments, there are many. I have only listed some common trends.

God Bless!

Father Dave Bechtel

Anonymous said...

Father B,

Thanks for the explanation. Makes sense. Seniority seems to come into play a lot. It's cool to know, I didn't before. I thought it was more random than you're making it sound. Having an older/more experienced do a bigger church makes sense, but some of the other more tailored choices, like having a priest known for unifying people go to a newly combined parish - that's nice to know! Not just like "ooh we have an open slot, let's shuffle this priest there and put this one there..." Neat, thanks!

- L